My 14th Residency in Edward Hopper's Cape Cod Studio
I'm just returned from Hopper's studio in South Truro on Cape Cod. With the exception of one sunny day we had terrible weather but on the whole enjoyed a stellar time. For an artist like myself I can't imagine a greater honor than to stay in this studio that is just dripping with art history.
Hopper's paintings speak to a lot of people. Hopper combined a remarkable openness to his surroundings with an almost maniacally rigorous selectivity. To put it another way, he saw more than most and chose only a tiny percentage of his perceptions as material good enough to make his art. For example this photo of the spot where Hopper spent half of each year for three decades might look to many artists like a perfect source to do sweeping deep spaced beach panoramas. But instead Hopper's imagination was usually more stirred by interior spaces, architecture, and a human presence.
The above photo was taken last week standing about 1/3 of the way down the path Hopper would take to reach his beach on Cape Cod Bay. The studio is built at the crest of a 60' high sand dune and has unobstructed views in all directions. To take full advantage of this, Hopper put in a ton of windows on his studio (designed it himself ). When you're there you can't help but be struck by the natural light that floods over everything you see. In many ways the place where Hopper made many of his famous paintings is so like his light-filled canvases.
Moving indoors, here's one of the new vine charcoal drawings I did looking out the window to the left toward Cape Cod Bay and to the right into his painting room with his simple store bought wooden easel in the distance.
Hopper Bedroom Two, vine charcoal, 8 x 12", 2012
I knew I wanted to take full advantage of that same light Hopper had so enjoyed. To get this view I had to wedge myself in between the two single beds in his tiny bedroom. Here I am about 3/4 of the way through working on the drawing. I always take my portable French easel along so I can work standing up. Doing that makes me more talented (seriously, it does).
The source combined a panoramic distance, Hopper's partially opened bedroom closet door and a glimpse of the much larger space of the painting room. Tying this all together were strong cast shadows sloping down across the molding of the closet door. I liked the drama of these shadows, so I made a point of toning down the contrasts in the moldings on the door.
It's funny, as the studio's furnishing are fairly sparse, but you immediately realize that architecture in Hopper's day had a much more developed richness of detail than our more bland contemporary window frames and doorways. Working in his studio I was reminded how much of what Hopper accomplished as a painter stemmed from the personality he sensed in the buildings of his time.
Hopper usually worked just during daylight hours. Evenings he'd often sit in front of his fireplace and muse. Here are my feet toasting themselves the first rainy night we were there in front of the fireplace in the painting room.
This is me coming back up from the beach on the winding long path that snakes its way over the undulating sand dunes. It's not far to the water as the crow flies but on foot it's a hike. In the distance you can see the studio with its wonderful 10' tall north facing window. Between all the surrounding water, the highly reflective sandy beaches and soil, and that marvelous over sized north window, Hopper had great light to work under.
I have a whole new batch of photos of the Hopper studio and surroundings. They'll be showing up in upcoming blog posts. And shortly on my website we'll open up a new page reserved just for them.