Sun in an Empty Room
This is the latest of my series of paintings done on location up in Edward Hopper's boyhood home in Nyack, NY, the Edward Hopper House Art Center. This one was painted on my portable easel upstairs in Hopper's bedroom where he was born and lived (on and off) until he finally moved out and settled in Manhattan when he was 28. It's Sun in an Empty Room II, oil on panel, 6 1/2 x13", 2012.
The window at the left looks directly east to the Hudson River a block and a half away while the right window faces south, giving a bird's eye view of Broadway, one of Nyack's main drags. Hopper's father owned and ran a local hardware store on Broadway. Young Edward worked there sometimes.
You get a profound sense out of these surroundings that this was an emotional home base for Hopper's visual imagination. Seriously, the big majority of what he would paint for the rest of his life can be glimpsed in this room or out these windows. Since Hopper, perhaps more than any other single figure created the imagery by which Americans envision themselves and their society, this room should be a museum. Fortunately, it is. Forty years ago a group of far-sighted and art loving Nyack folks saved the building from demolition to make way for a parking lot (now that would have been just about the most boneheaded move).
In addition to the redolent art history in this room, my eye was intrigued by the one V-shaped highlight that came in through the south window in the afternoon. Sharp and angular like so many of the highlights and cast shadows one finds in mature Hopper paintings. The antique wooden highchair in the painting at the left was in Hopper's family when he was little- very likely little Edward was placed in it for his meals.
I think the job of artists is to notice what has been commonly overlooked that is of value and then present it back to the public in a form vivid enough they won't miss its significance. I know that is what always aim to accomplish. Hopper was a man with a deep talent for finding the extraordinary right in his backyard. And most of the time he had the painting talent to show us the magic that was right under our noses all along.
The title I chose for my painting, as dyed-in-the-wool Hopper fans might suspect, is inspired by Hopper's famous late oil painting Sun in an Empty Room seen below. I think you can see the connection to his boyhood home in this one.