Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Truro Hopper Medley


Many people have contacted me to say they've enjoyed seeing the photos my wife and I took in this fall when we were staying up in Hopper's S. Truro, MA studio. And asked that they keep coming. Here goes...

Above is the Hopper studio (at left) seen from about 3/4 of the way down the path that leads from the studio to the beach where Hopper used to like to swim (often alone, to the chagrin of his wife Jo). The large house to the right lies just to the south of the studio. It was built in the decades after the Hoppers died. I invite viewers to imagine how these hills looked in Hopper's time, when his was the only building on this long stretch of high dunes. 

For fun and to give some context to these photos of the studio I'm putting in a couple of  Cape Cod theme Hopper paintings. One that I've always loved even though its mood seems a little unsettling is Hopper's Cape Cod Evening. The dog is placed right up front as the most important "actor." The dog's ears are cocked forward as if it hears something scurrying in the forest that the two humans haven't sensed yet. Perhaps the man leaning forward and gesturing to the dog is hoping to learn how to see and hear the sounds of nature as well as the dog can. Animals after all live closer to nature than we humans and to me this painting hints at that. 




Here's me standing in a brisk late afternoon wind down on Hopper's beach with his studio over my shoulder. There are a whole series of grass covered dunes that lie down near the water. To reach the studio, one climbs over those, descends into a protected little hollow, and then ascends up a long and very steep path up the side of the much higher dunes in the distance. It's hard to convey in a photo how high up over the water the studio is.




Inside the studio's painting room. The sunlight shines into the bedroom from the unseen door to the kitchen. The door Hopper used to reach the beach is open at the right. The is the view that inspired Hopper's wonderful oil Rooms by the Sea, now in Yale's collection.




Hopper's famous oil of Corn Hill,  a spot located just north of Hopper's studio along Cape Cod Bay. It is so named because the Mayflower Pilgrims landed here before reaching Plymouth Rock looking for food. They discovered a cache of corn the Native Americans had stored in the hillside for the next season and took it for themselves, ascribing their good fortune to "divine providence." That's putting quite a good spin on it. Great painting though. Look at the wonderful contrasting patterns of sand, grasses, and darker plants on the hillside played off against the regularity of the box-like rows of houses. That's just the sort of contrast that used to ignite Hopper's imagination.




I don't know if Corn Hill was painted in the painting room at left in the photo below, as it may well have been, or back in Hopper's New York studio. But I like to imagine the oil being painted here. The door at the right is the studio's bathroom. Notice the steamed up vanity mirror after my wife Alice's morning shower.




A watercolor of a house that still stands on the south bank of the Pamet River where it empties into Cape Cod Bay. This is just north of the Hopper studio. Since the watercolor was painted the house has become largely obscured by a grove of trees that have grown up around it. In Hopper's day Truro was a much more open space. In the late 19th century Cape Cod had become almost completely deforested by the inhabitants' hunger for firewood and lumber, giving the place an almost desert like appearance. That's largely gone now, except for the remarkable visual record left to us by Hopper's Truro paintings.




Here's Hopper's bedroom viewed from the kitchen. The left window faces due south. The right window west, opening onto Cape Cod Bay.





 Here I am wedged tightly in between the two beds seen above, working on a vine charcoal drawing.





Here's the vine charcoal I was working on, Hopper's Bedroom, Truro II, 9 x 12", 2012.


P.S. A few of my collectors very sweetly contacted me to ask how my studio in Baltimore survived Hurricane Sandy. We had spent much of Sunday preparing, getting everything stored safely up in my painting racks well off the floor. (Especially the new work I have ready for George Billis Gallery in New York's show of my paintings set to open Dec. 11). Am happy to report we were able to control what water did come in and we suffered no damage!

4 comments:

  1. Very much enjoyed reading your account of your time spent in Hoppers Studio. What an amazing experience - and amazing light. The rooms positively glow.
    Thank you for sharing.

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  2. Thanks VisitFngerLakes for your kind words. Staying in the Hopper studio has been a tremendously meaningful experience to me over the years.You might be interested to know that the Finger Lakes in New York played a BIG role in my growing up. Used to race little sailboats in various regattas as a young teenager. I remember the area vividly and wirh great affection. And I not so fondly remember skiing right into an oncoming chair lift and being knocked unconscious at Bristol Mountain ski resort near Canandaigua, NY.



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  3. This is one of the most inspiring articles I've read on Cape Cod. I'm also hunting for the exact location of Hopper's Beach.

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  4. Robert, thanks for your kind words. The Hopper beach is about a half mile or so south of where the Pamet River empties out into Cape Cod Bay.

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