A prominent American Realist painter of the inter-war period, Edward Hopper (July 22, 1882 – May 15, 1967) was best known for his oil and watercolor paintings on intense themes around solitude and melancholy. He made a unique use of light to capture the lonely mood of his subjects. His highly individualistic style, distant from the mainstream Abstract Expressionism, was influential in pop art and culture.
Edward was born in a middle-class family of dry-goods merchant, Garret Henry Hopper and Elizabeth Griffiths Smith, in Nyack, New York. Edward and his only sibling Marion were brought up in a strict Baptist culture. With a natural instinct for art, he was proficient in charcoal, watercolor, and oil painting even as a teenager. In 1899, he joined the New York School of Illustrating for a correspondence course on commercial illustration. Edward soon took transfer to the more prestigious New York Institute of Art & Design, for a painting course during 1900-06. Robert Henri (1869-1929), one of the fathers of American Realism, was Hopper’s most influential teacher. The artist made three trips to Europe between 1906 and 1910 with Paris as center. The prevalent French and Spanish trends did not affect his style.
Edward’s initial work did not generate interest in the art world forcing him to work as a free-lance commercial illustrator for about a decade. His devotion to cinema and theatre illustrations during this period had significant impact on his subjects and methods in his later career as a Realist painter. Hopper’s work gained recognition by 1925, after which he continued as a dedicated painter creating work around themes of loneliness and isolation until his demise in 1967.
Hopper’s art style was close to Realism right from the start. He used simple, large geometric forms, flat colors for stark play of light & shadow, and contemporary architectural elements for his compositions. In 1913, Hopper sold his first painting, ‘Sailing’ (1911) at the Armory Show in New York. During these years of struggle, he turned to water color painting and etching which got him sparse public recognition mainly due to his urban themes around New York and New England. Few of his notable artworks during this period were ‘Evening Wind’ (1920), ‘The Catboat’ (1920), ‘New York Interior’ (1921), and ‘New York Restaurant’ (1922).
Hopper’s career as an artist went uphill after his marriage to Josephine Nivison in 1924. She helped him manage his career and even modeled for few of his paintings. His paintings ‘The Mansard Roof’ (1923), ‘House by the Railroad’ (1925), ‘Two on the Aisle’ (1927) became a landmark in American Realist Art establishing him as a mature individualistic artist.
For the next four decades, Hopper continued creating work as a pictorial poet, painting hotels, trains, highways, theatres, gas stations, restaurants and other public and semi-public places. One of his favorite subjects was painting sunlight on the side of a house. He also painted a few portraits, mostly nude females, and self-portrait in his entire career. Echoing the onset of Great Depression (1929-40), his landscapes and cityscapes depicted the American world as chilling, alienating, and vacuous. Some of his important works in this genre include ‘New York Movie’ (1939), ‘Nighthawks’ (1942), and ‘Morning in a City’ (1944). His famous works during his last few years were ‘Intermission’ (1963) and ‘Two Comedians’ (1966). Hopper’s paintings are spread across art world in America, such as the Museum of Modern Art (New York), the Whitney Museum of American Art (New York), National Gallery of Art (Washington), and the Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago).
Source by Annette Labedzki