Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Good News About Edward Hopper's Legacy


Philip Koch, Edward Hopper's Rooms by the Sea, oil on canvas, 42 x 63"

Above is a painting that's something of a love letter to the painting below by the famous American realist painter Edward Hopper. It's titled simply Rooms by the Sea and lives in the Yale University Art Gallery. When I was a teenager I saw this Hopper's oil reproduced in Time magazine and thought it was strange, but also pretty good. It was the first Hopper image I'd ever seen.

Little did I know back then I had just met the man who would have the biggest single influence on my career as a painter.


Hopper's painting is a fictionalized version of the corner of his painting room in the studio he had built for himself in 1934 out near the tip of Cape Cod in South Truro, MA. In a lot of ways its a hymn to the beauty of the sea and the famous Cape Cod light. My own painting is more naturalistic and is a bit more faithful to the actual arrangement of the doors, the sunlight, and the water. Considering all the restraints I allowed reality to place on myself, I didn't do half bad.

In the last couple years a dispute has brewed between those who want to preserve the land just north of the studio as it has been for decades, as pictured below, and a new landowner who has been constructing a mega-sized mansion just on the other side of the little white Hopper house. Just last night I learned from the current owners of the Hopper studio they've had a significant legal victory to restrain the people building the oversized new mansion.




If this holds up, I consider it to be a victory for everyone who values this living piece of American Art History, the land Hopper looked at every day while he painted dozens of his greatest masterpieces. If anything is worth preserving, this legacy is.

I'm scheduled to return this fall for my 13th residency staying and working in the Hopper studio. Naturally I've grown more than fond of it. Wanted to close with a pastel I did from life standing in the artist's kitchen looking into his bedroom. It's quite a view.




Philip Koch, Truro Studio Bedroom,
pastel, 14 x 7", 2006




8 comments:

  1. Nice picture, Philip. Is anything in that house from Hoppers tenure there?

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  2. Thanks Stape.

    Yes, quite a lot of Hopper's stuff remains- his easel, hat, painting shirt, brushes, mahl stick, furniture, knick knacks, books,

    One of the coolest things I found was watercolor paper he stretched over canvas stretchers but never got around to using using. He used to take old newspapers and tack them to the back of the stretcher bars so sunlight wouldn't shine through his watercolor paper. The one's I examined had sports results from 1954.

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  3. Bernadette WaystackApril 15, 2010 at 6:11 PM

    Will you be doing any workshops or anything when you come up? In the fall I'll be back to school teaching but finished with Savannah College and my masters this summer. I'd take a personal day or two if I had to do it. Would love to be able to study with you someday.

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  4. I'll be coming up to New England really with an eye on just painting as much as possible. I need to re-charge my batteries from teaching the two classes I have at MICA.

    Lord knows I had the benefit of some wonderful teachers when I was coming up. What I didn't realize back when I was an art student was how much energy goes into teaching painting well. Not as much as actually making paintings, of course, because nothing compares to that, but still a great deal. I think the best teachers take long stretches of time away from teaching so they can immerse themselves in their own work. We are all trying to stay in touch with out Muse, and you know how demanding she is.

    I'm fortunate I'll be on sabbatical from teaching until the end of next January. This is great, as I have some major projects in mind!

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  5. Wonderful news as I am a big Hopper fan and have been influenced by his work also. I have been in his Washington Square studio in NY. It was very exciting, his easel and printing press are still next to that curved mantle fire place. Nice work.

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  6. Hi Stephen, and thanks for writing. I know your work from George Billis's website and from one of the art magazines last year (or so). I liked your color sense very much and made a point of showing your things to my wife Alice, who is even harder to please than I am. She too liked your things very much.

    I'm glad they finally got around to restoring Hopper's NYC studio. It is such a piece of art history. I know several other great American painters had worked in his same building earlier. Hopper's birthplace up in Nyack, NY is now a great little art center. Worth the visit for anyone who loves Hopper.

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