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Edward Hopper

Edward Hopper

Edward Hopper

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No other artist managed to capture the solitude within the modern city like Edward Hopper. The ‘artist of empty spaces’ offers a remindful look at life of Americans during Great Depression. His suggestive imagery shares the mood of individual’s isolation with books of Tennessee Williams, Theodore Dreiser, Robert Frost, Jerome Salinger, as well as with canvasses of Giorgio De Chirico and Paul Delvaux. Hopper depicted the spirit of the time very subtly, showing it in the poses of characters, in the vast empty spaces around them, and also in his unique color palette.

Edward Hopper was born into a middle class family in Nyack, NY, a vibrant hub of transport and industry at the time. The boy was already serious about his artistic ambitions in the age of 10, when he started to sign and date his drawings. Hopper's parents encouraged him to study commercial illustration instead of fine art. Accordingly, he spent a year at the New York School of Illustration before transferring to the more serious New York School of Art (now Parsons School of Design) to realize his dream. His teachers there included the American Impressionist William Merritt Chase (who founded the school) and Robert Henri, a leading figure of the Ashcan school, whose proponents advocated depicting the grittier side of urban life. Hopper's classmates at the school included George Bellows and Rockwell Kent.

In 1905, Hopper began working as an illustrator for a New York City advertising agency. He never really liked illustrating and longed for the freedom to paint from his imagination. Unfortunately, success was slow in coming and he was forced to earn his living as an illustrator for nearly 20 more years until his painting career took off.

Hopper travelled to Europe three times between 1906 and 1910, enjoying two extended stays in Paris. There he created beautiful uninhabited landscapes, deprived of tourist sights and attractions, including Steps in Paris (1906), Bistro (1909), Stairway at 48 rue de Lille Paris (1906), The new bridge (1909). The influence of the Impressionists led him to the streets to draw and paint en plein air, or, as Hopper described it, ‘from the fact.’ He was especially attracted to Édouard Manet and Edgar Degas's unusual compositional arrangements in their depictions of modern urban life.

After returning from his final trip abroad in 1910, Hopper moved permanently to New York City and, in 1913, settled in a house that would be his home and studio for the rest of his life. That same year he sold his first painting, Sailing (1911), for $250 at the Armory show in New York. Though he never stopped painting, it would be 11 years before he sold another artwork. In 1915, he took up printmaking, producing some 70 etchings and dry points over the next decade. Like the paintings for which he would later become renowned, Hopper's etchings embody a sense alienation and melancholy. One of his better known etchings, Night Shadows (1921) features the birds'-eye viewpoint, the dramatic use of light and shadow, and the air of mystery which would serve as inspiration for many film noir movies of the 1940s. Hopper continued to receive great acclaim for his etchings over the years and considered them an essential part of his artistic development.

In 1924, at age of 41, Hopper married Josephine (Jo) Nivison, whom he had met years earlier as an art student of Robert Henri. From that time on she became his primary model and most ardent supporter. In that same year he had a solo exhibition of watercolors at the Frank K. M. Rehn Gallery in New York. The show sold out and the Rehn Gallery continued to represent him for the rest of his life. This success enabled Hopper to finally give up illustrating. Over the next several years, Hopper's painting style matured and his signature iconography emerged - from isolated figures in public or private interiors, to sun-soaked architecture, silent streets, and coastal scenes with lighthouses. In 1930, House by the Railroad (1925) became the first painting accessioned to the permanent collection of the newly founded Museum of Modern Art. The early 1930s were, indeed, a period of great success for Hopper, with sales to major museums and in 1933, a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art.

Despite his commercial success, Hopper and Jo lived a frugal lifestyle, only allowing themselves the indulgence of attending theater and films. Hopper particularly loved going to movies - his first documented visit to one was in Paris in 1909. Hopper continued to be productive during the war years – at that time he worked on his most well known painting, Nighthawks (1942). Through the 1950s and early 1960s, Hopper continued to see acclaim and success, despite the arrival of Abstract Expressionism, Pop Art, and Minimalism to the New York art scene. The universal appeal of his subjects continued to find an avid audience.

Hopper was not a prolific painter. He often found it hard to settle on a subject to paint and then spent a great deal of time working out the details of the composition through numerous studies. By the end of his life he averaged just two oils a year. Hopper has inspired countless painters, photographers, filmmakers, set designers, dancers, writers, and musicians and the term 'hopperesque' is now widely used to connote images reminiscent of Hopper's moods and subjects. In the visual arts, Hopper's influence has touched artists in a range of media including Mark Rothko, George Segal, Banksy, Ed Ruscha, and Tony Oursler. He also inspired a whole school of photographers including Robert Adams, Diane Arbus, Harry Callahan, William Eggleston, Walker Evans, Robert Frank, Lee Friedlander, and Stephen Shore. Hopper has had no less of an impact on cinema. Generations of filmmakers have drawn inspiration from Hopper's dramatic viewpoints, lighting, and overall moods, among them, Sam Mendes, David Lynch, Robert Siodmak, Orson Welles, Wim Wenders, and Billy Wilder. His painting, House by the Railroad (1925) inspired Alfred Hitchcock's house in Psycho (1960) as well as that in Terrence Malick's Days of Heaven (1978).

Hopper's open-ended narratives have also appealed to writers and musicians. Tom Waits titled an album Nighthawks at the Diner and Madonna named a concert tour after the painting Girlie Show (1941). Joyce Carol Oates refers directly to Hopper in her poem, Edward Hopper's Nighthawks 1942. Many others have created whole collections of stories or poems using Hopper paintings as starting points.

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Edward Hopper (July 22, 1882 – May 15, 1967) was a prominent American realist painter and printmaker. While he was most popularly known for his oil paintings, he was equally proficient as a watercolorist and printmaker in etching. Both in his urban and rural scenes, his spare and finely calculated renderings reflected his personal vision of modern American life.

Hopper was born in 1882 in Upper Nyack, New York, a yacht-building center on the Hudson River north of New York City. He was one of two children of a comfortably well-to-do family. His parents, of mostly Dutch ancestry, were Elizabeth Griffiths Smith and Garret Henry Hopper, a dry-goods merchant. Although not so successful as his forebears, Garrett provided well for his two children with considerable help from his wife's inheritance. He retired at age forty-nine. Edward and his only sister Marion attended both private and public schools. They were raised in a strict Baptist home. His father had a mild nature, and the household was dominated by women: Hopper's mother, grandmother, sister, and maid.

His birthplace and boyhood home was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2000. It is now operated as the Edward Hopper House Art Center. It serves as a nonprofit community cultural center featuring exhibitions, workshops, lectures, performances, and special events.

Hopper was a good student in grade school and showed talent in drawing at age five. He readily absorbed his father's intellectual tendencies and love of French and Russian cultures. He also demonstrated his mother's artistic heritage. Hopper's parents encouraged his art and kept him amply supplied with materials, instructional magazines, and illustrated books. By his teens, he was working in pen-and-ink, charcoal, watercolor, and oil—drawing from nature as well as making political cartoons. In 1895, he created his first signed oil painting, Rowboat in Rocky Cove. It shows his early interest in nautical subjects.

In his early self-portraits, Hopper tended to represent himself as skinny, ungraceful, and homely. Though a tall and quiet teenager, his prankish sense of humor found outlet in his art, sometimes in depictions of immigrants or of women dominating men in comic situations. Later in life, he mostly depicted women as the figures in his paintings. In high school, he dreamed of being a naval architect, but after graduation he declared his intention to follow an art career. Hopper's parents insisted that he study commercial art to have a reliable means of income. In developing his self-image and individualistic philosophy of life, Hopper was influenced by the writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson. He later said, "I admire him greatly...I read him over and over again."

Hopper began art studies with a correspondence course in 1899. Soon he transferred to the New York School of Art and Design, the forerunner of Parsons The New School for Design. There he studied for six years, with teachers including William Merritt Chase, who instructed him in oil painting. Early on, Hopper modeled his style after Chase and French Impressionist masters Édouard Manet and Edgar Degas. Sketching from live models proved a challenge and a shock for the conservatively raised Hopper.

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Edward Hopper Famous works
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