Friday, July 31, 2009

Awesome Sense of Light

Think of late afternoon sunlight and I immediately think Edward Hopper. 

Years ago it was seeing the poetry in his long shadows that convinced me I had to change from painting my early abstractions. I wanted a world with the dazzle of bright highlights and deep luminous shadows.

Edward Hopper's oil painting The Camel's Hump (image courtesy Art Renewal Center) features a distinctive pyramid-like sand dune that for decades was a landmark in S. Truro on the shore Cape Cod Bay. The road in the foreground is the driveway to Hopper's studio and he positioned himself to look south towards the memorable dune. When I was first invited to go and stay in Hopper's studio way back in 1983 I was eager to try a painting from this same vantage point. I got there and guess what- no Camel's Hump. 

The owners of the studio later told me about what had happened. Apparently someone bought the adjoining land and planned to build a house right where the Camel's Hump stood. He even hired a bulldozer and made quick work of the famous dune in preparation for digging the foundation. The town officials stopped him as he'd neglected to get the proper building permits. Still it was too late and this wonderful natural feature is lost to future generations. At least we have Hopper's vision of it.

Cape Cod is perhaps one of the most painted landscapes in the world. It has real beauty, but with that comes a certain strangeness. It appealed to Hopper's eye that had a unique way of seeing. For my money no artist caught the "feel" of the Cape like Hopper.

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