A recently discovered essay on Edward Hopper by the late poet and artist Mark Strand.
Strand writes: "The coincidence of vision—his idea, vague at first, of what the painting might be—and the brute fact of the subject, its plain obdurate existence, just 'out there' with an absolutely insular existence. Until, that is, Edward Hopper sees something about it as a possible subject for a painting and this image with its possibilities lodges itself in Hopper’s imagination and the formation of the painting’s content begins—content being, of course, what the artist brings to his subject, that quality that makes it unmistakably his, so when we look at the painting of a building or an office or a gas station, we say it’s a Hopper. We don’t say it’s a gas station. By the time the gas station appears on canvas in its final form it has ceased being just a gas station. It has become Hopperized. It possesses something it never had before Hopper saw it as a possible subject for his painting. And for the artist, the painting exists, in part, as a mode of encountering himself. Although the encountered self may not correspond to the vision of possibility that a particular subject seemed to offer up. When Hopper said, in an interview with Brian O’Doherty, 'I’m after ME,' this is undoubtedly what he meant."
Greenwald writes that the show is "drawn almost entirely from the museum’s holdings, displays over 100 paintings, drawings, prints and photographs that exhibition organizers say contain a search for 'American-ness.' ... 'American Landscape,' Sheeler’s iconic canvas, a highlight of this exhibition, is based on the Ford photographs. Here industrial silos, machinery, factory buildings and a smokestack are simplified into crisp geometric shapes while a cloudy sky and rippling river are soft-edged. The only figure in the painting is a tiny worker by the train tracks, easy to miss, making the active plant strangely quiet... Other scenes of an increasingly industrialized American landscape are Edward Hopper’s 'House by the Railroad,' 1925, Charles Burchfield’s gouache 'Railroad Gantry,' 1920, Louis Lozowick’s lithograph, 'Crane,' 1928, and Joseph Stella’s 'Factories,' 1918."
Alex Heimbach reviews the exhibition Edward Hopper: Drawing at the Whitney Museum of Art, New York, on view through October 6, 2013.
Citing a suite of preparatory drawings displayed with the painting Rooms for Tourists (1945), Heimbach writes that "curator Carter E. Foster has cleverly arranged the space to showcase how Hopper drafted his final products, allowing viewers to observe the accumulation of details that eventually cohere into a single whole. The exhibit includes nine drawings for 'Rooms for Tourists,' varying from extremely rough, partial sketches to a complete draft that’s a work of art in its own right. The progression shows in an ever-increasing level of exactitude: the early versions are just rough shapes with little shading or detailing, while later drafts include more depth and greater sections of the whole."
Reviewing the exhibition Edward Hopper: Drawing at the Whitney Museum of Art (through October 6), Robin Cembalest takes a closer look at Hopper's preparatory drawings for his iconic painting Nighthawks (1942).
Cembalest notes: "Hopper generally didn’t consider his drawings as art objects that should be exhibited or sold. To him, they were simply studio materials—documents of the process he used to conceive and to plot, in minute detail, the stories he told on his canvases. The Nighthawks drawings reveal how Hopper choreographed his voyeuristic scene of the nighttime convergence of the man, a couple, and a server in the eerie Deco diner, refining every nuance of the countertop, the figures, the architecture, and the effects of the fluorescent lighting. The diner first emerges in a compositional study with just a few slightly diagonal lines intersected by short verticals—just the essence of the painting’s spatial conception. But also present is a serpentine leg of one of the coffee urns, in the upper center. 'This marvelous demonstration of both extreme specificity and near abstract compositional summation on the same surface beguilingly reflects how empirical observation and imagination coexisted in Hopper’s head,' curator Carter E. Foster writes in the catalogue."
Smith writes: "By chance 'Legends' coincides with the Museum of Modern Art’s sweeping survey 'Inventing Abstraction: 1910-1925,' which traces the development of a largely geometric form of abstraction, mostly by European and Russian artists who often worked in closely related styles. In comparison the Whitney’s display might almost have been subtitled 'Inventing American Modernism, One Sensibility at a Time.' The artists here impress you as talented loners working toward diverse and much messier notions of modernity. To be sure, they take tips from European styles, but they also free themselves from such influences with highly personal responses to the sights and subjects specific to this country — the rawness of its landscapes, the tawdriness of its cities, as well as its folk art, social mores and racism. Sometimes they are working toward abstraction, sometimes not."
Painter Robert Anderson considers Edward Hopper's Sun on Prospect Street (Gloucester, Mass), 1934, in the collection of the Cincinnati Museum of Art.
Anderson writes that "The piece is very familiar yet foreign at the same time... the painting pulls you in and makes you stay with it. In its bold use of economy, it opens up the possibility for a greater narrative. Hopper removed all of the superfluous elements of the scene, and shared just enough with the viewer to create a magnificent sense of a common shared experience."
Leslie Anderson blogs about Edward Hopper's inclusion in the 1952 Venice Biennale. She notes that the positive reception of Hopper's work in Europe may be linked to an existing contemplative tradition in European painting beginning with Jan Vermeer and including Hopper's near contemporary, Danish painter Vilhelm Hammershøi.
Anderson quotes Stuart Preston of The New York Times who noted, in his review of the 1952 Biennale, that of the Americans represented "Hopper made the deepest impression. Foreigners recognized, and rightly, something authentically American in the pathos of his landscapes, a germ of loneliness..."
Ed Beem reviews the exhibition Edward Hopper's Maine at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art on view through October 16, 2011.
Beem writes that the stars of the exhibition (which was designed by painter Alex Katz) are "30 small oils Hopper did on Monhegan Island over the summers of 1916-19. Littoral jewels, the little Monhegan landscapes, all about a foot in any dimension, are refreshing in their modesty. They are paintings painted for people, not institutions, art meant to be lived with not stored and studied to death."
Considering the work of Edward Hopper and Fairfield Porter, Philip Koch looks at "...the difference between two of the main ways of seeing in painting- one can either move one's eye across the surface or plunge into the painting's depth."
Painter Philip Koch begins: "I always come back to Edward Hopper." Koch describes why Hopper's work spoke to him initially and remains a touchstone - the "depth of [Hopper's] emotions came through... clearly in his slowly built up and methodically constructed compositions."
Edited by artist Brett Baker, Painters' Table highlights writing from the painting blogosphere as it is published and serves as a platform for exploring blogs that focus primarily on the subject of painting.