My intention to say something about painting was interrupted by a couple of requests to post even more of the photos I took up at Hopper's studio on Cape Cod last September. I was going to refuse, but one particularly desperate Hopper addict kidnapped my studio cat Fluffy and won't return him until I post some more photos. I surrender...
Above are the steps leading from Hopper's garage up the steep side of the dune to the studio. We are looking at the east side of the structure. These steps are new, Hopper's were much more modest. For the life of me I don't know how they got the furniture up there in Hopper's day.
And here above is the main entrance to the studio that leads into the kitchen. It's on the south side of the house, and the shingle covered walls surrounding the modest landing are a new addition- in Hopper's day there was just a simple staircase.
OK, maybe now I can sneak in what I'd meant to write about (actually it fits right in). We're looking at the place where Hopper painted a lot of his masterpieces. He did some very significant aesthetic "heavy lifting" in this studio.
What is it that a painter is doing, anyway, when they pull off a significant painting? Well I think Hopper was providing for a special need we humans have. We're hungry for a sense of meaning- we're not quite sure what that is, but we're still gripped with the need to feel it.
There are brief moments when the usual veil of confusion lifts and we suddenly grasp a connection between things that we'd thought unconnected. It's almost as if we overhear the whisper of a previously secret conversation that's been going on all along. Seizing that and giving it a form that can be shared with others has been the task of artists through the centuries.
And Hopper did a lot of that right here. His Cape Cod studio proved to be an extraordinary place. Here he found the unique light and forms to be able to share some of his moments of special discovery with us. That so many different people respond so deeply to the work he did here means this modest little house is an "historic landmark" of our art history.
Above is the doorway leading out from the painting room to the west towards Cape Cod Bay, which lies far below the lofty height of the studio. This is the doorway that inspired Hopper's major oil Rooms by the Sea that's now in Yale's art museum. The love seat-type bench was Hopper's and the artist posed sitting on it outside in front of his studio's north window in the famous photo by Arnold Newman. It's reproduced in my previous blog post and you can see it there. (Some readers might remember that photo with this bench appearing on the cover of the New York Times Magazine some years back). At the right is one of the elaborate decorated chairs the Hopper's bought on one of their two trips to Mexico (if I have the story right).
Lastly here's the big painting room at dawn. Again we're looking west out towards Cape Cod Bay. The early morning sun shines into the studio hits one of the drawings I was working on. When Hopper built the studio in 1934 Cape Cod was much more denuded of trees than now. But even today the studio stands exposed at the top of a sand dune with nothing to cast shadows over it. So literally the first and last rays of the sun are visible from the many-windowed studio. In my mind I think Hopper designed the place as an observatory where he could study the sunlight. And he proved a very good student indeed.
(I was just contacted by the cat's kidnappers and they say they're not satisfied and that I'll have to post still more photos before they'll agree to return Fluffy. My thought is Jeez guys, get a life, but I'd better put some more pictures up in a day or two or I may start running out of fresh cat fur in my studio).