Thursday, September 30, 2010

Painting in the Edward Hopper Studio


I'm just returned from the Edward Hopper studio in S. Truro, MA on Cape Cod. We had a blast.

Good weather and a smile from the Muse helped me do a ton of good new work. Above is Hopper's easel holding instead of his masterpieces three new vine charcoal and pastel drawings I did while there. His easel, by the way, is nothing special- it's the type still available today from art stores. Like everything else, Hopper worked with ordinary tools, materials and subjects, yet very often produced things that were magical.



Above is my wife Alice standing next to the 10' tall north facing studio window in the studio's painting room. That and the high ceilings give the room a steady bright daylight all day long. It's frankly a beautiful space. Hopper placed his easel just to the right of the window when he worked, as that's the spot where glare from the late afternoon sun could most easily be avoided.



And above is me with one of my many easels standing on the north side of the studio.

Below is a photo Alice took of me walking in a brisk wind along the beach Hopper used to swim at, usually alone, during his summers on Cape Cod.




In a couple of blog posts back I was talking about Hopper's oil Rooms by the Sea in the Yale University Art Museum, and how Hopper took many liberties with the actual facts to make his painting more expressive.




Here below is the actual corner of his painting room, with the dutch door opening toward Cape Cod Bay. On the left is Hopper's bedroom. Look at how cool the walls are in the photo below as they all face north and never actually receive direct sunlight. And notice how he's changed the door itself to attach to the other side of the doorway. This lets his sunlight splash across his enlarged wall uninterrupted.



I want to show you a lot more of the photos I took of the studio and surroundings. And I want to share with you some of the new work I did while up there. For me, who has been moved so often by Hopper's achievement, staying and working in his studio is a big shot in the arm. The next few blog posts will look at Hopper and his legacy more.

Addendum to Post:

I had an interesting exchange with Lisa Petrulis, the Curator of the Swope Art Museum in Terre Haute, IN concerning the whereabouts of one of the houses Hopper had painted on Cape Cod that became the oil Route 6, Eastham, one of the jewels of Swope's Permanent Collection. The former Director of the Swope felt the source for Hopper's masterful oil



was a house and barn located on the northwest side of the Route 6 traffic circle near Orleans, MA, just at the edge of the town of Eastham. I sent along a photo I took of that structure to Petrulis, thinking this was probably the source for Hopper's painting. No slouch she, Lisa Petrulis sent me the following photo of another house a bit north of my candidate that is now The Painted Dog Bed and Breakfast. Here's the photo:



If you compare the painting and the photo you have to conclude this is Hopper's source for what I have always considered to be one of his very best paintings. Typical of the changes to Cape Cod since Hopper's day, there's been a lot more growth of the trees that by the end of the 19th century had been all but cleared from Cape Cod for firewood and building. Now the Cape is gradually losing that open desert-like appearance featured in so many Hoppers.

The Swope Art Museum by the way is a real treat, with a Permanent Collection that's unrivaled when it comes to Regionalist painting of the early 20th century. They have in addition to Hopper, great work by Charles Burchfield, Thomas Hart Benton, Grant Wood, and a killer Paul Manship sculpture. The Swope is a great regional museum. I've had the privilege of having had two solo exhibitions of my own paintings there and served as the juror for their annual regional juried Wabash Valley Exhibition. And they were one of the first art museums to add one of my paintings to their Collection. If you're anywhere near central Indiana, you owe it to yourself to visit.






8 comments:

  1. What a treat! You are indeed a lucky man! I was surprised at how spacious the main studio room is. I had read about how Hopper designed it and imagined it as being smaller. But that spare, utilitarian beauty you expect is there. Looking forward to more!

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  2. Deborah, the other rooms are tiny, almost comically so given that Hopper was a very tall lanky man. The extra space devoted to the painting room lays out his priorities for us to see very clearly. It is bar none the loveliest studio space I've ever seen.

    A few years ago I visited Winslow Homer's studio and found it couldn't compare with Hopper's. Homer's paintings of course are another story. Even Hopper, famously slow to give complements, held those in high regard.

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  3. Welcome Back, Philip!
    Sounds like you had a great time and I'm looking forward to seeing your work and hearing more details about your stay. When I was looking at your photos I was thinking something didn't seem quite right about that big window. Looking back at older posts I see the window used to be multi-pained when Hopper had it built- very Cape Coddish! I wonder when the change was made and if it was a light factor issue (I doubt it) or if the old window was just a pain in the neck to clean.

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  4. The old window was lovely but was starting to show its age- the weight of the many panes of glass was causing the whole window to bend and sag. And several of the panes of glass were badly cracked.

    So the present owners were rightly concerned the whole thing might blow open in a storm (the studio is high up on an exposed dune and is subject to really strong winds). So now its just two unobstructed sheets of glass and there's a mechanical metal "garage door" that is lowered over the whole window when needed. It does change the feeling of the studio a little, but I think the changes were necessary.
    Cape Cod weather is rough on the houses there, and the studio in now 76 years old.

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  5. Philip,

    Welcome back, and thanks for sharing. Would love to see more of what you've created while there. I just returned myself; we were in Truro from Thursday-yesterday. With a long history of unfortunate October weather behind us, my wife and I were thrilled with the unseasonably warm, sunny weather! It was amazing, especially since Friday's "storm" was much less than predicted.

    I had the nerve to drive up Stephens Way to see the house after 10 years of visits where I felt too anxious to do so—like I was about to be arrested. What a view (and what a road)! I'm pleased for you that you have the blessed opportunity to work in that space. Can't imagine what it would have felt like to place a canvas on that easel for the very first time.

    Thanks for the Swope story of one of my favorites. I still count "Solitude 56" as my personal all-time Hopper, for what it expresses to me. Looking forward to hearing more and seeing more!

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  6. I'll be posting more photos in a couple of days- I took a bunch.

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  7. Thanks for posting the Route 6, Eastham pictures. I was given that photo to trace in the 4th grade and it never left my memory. I always stare at the lines on the road to relax! A huge repro hangs in my living room!

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  8. Hi Eric,

    Yes, isn't that an amazing painting by Hopper. I remember right after I'd left my grad school painting program in Indianaand had taken my first teaching job out in Washington State. I was feeling very cut off and lonely, like I was living on the moon. Then I opened theSeattle paper one morning and boom, there's a huge reproduction of Route 6, Eastham that was in a Hopper show at the Seattle Art Museum. Boy did that cheer me up like running into an old friend unexpectedly.

    Years later when I had a solo show at the Swope Art Museum that owns that Hopper, the Director let me hold it in my arms like a baby. It doesn't get better.

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