Unlockng Clues to Edward Hopper

On Sunday afternoon May 4 I've been invited by the Edward Hopper House Art Center in Nyack, NY to give a short talk on the legacy of Hopper's vision. The talk will take place in Hopper's boyhood home, upstairs in the bedroom where he was born and lived until he was nearly 30. Years before Hopper, previous generations of the American Hudson River School artists painted often literally in Hopper's neighborhood. The profoundly divergent ways Hopper and his predecessors chose to compose pictorial space is fascinating.

Above is Hopper's oil Gloucester Harbor, teaming with activity. It's a view that highlights some of the key ingredients of Hopper's artistic vision- an elevated viewpoint, dramatic and even jarring juxtapositions, and generally a preference for forms that are close in to the viewer.

By contrast, here's an oil by the 19th century American painter Sanford Gifford of the Palisades, the dramatic stretch of towering cliffs lining the west bank of the Hudson River beginning less than a mile from Hopper's home. 

I've no doubt Hopper was moved by the grand scale of the Hudson's topography. Some of his early attempts at landscape mimicked Gifford's panoramic views of deep spaces. But early on Hopper found he was more successful when he focused on a more intimate and closed in kind of space. Much of what makes a Hopper feel like a Hopper comes from this choice to crowd things in closer to the viewer. It was a tendency that endured his entire career.

Hopper's great inventiveness as a painter stemmed in part from his ability to insert the charged feelings of his childhood memories into his adult paintings. Here's the view looking out of one of the three windows in Hopper's bedroom towards the Hudson River, one block away. It's tellingly like the view Hopper would paint of Gloucester Harbor. 

If you visit Hopper's boyhood home you sense the artist's uncanny ability to create a poetry out of the seemingly ordinary. Walking through its rooms you catch a patch of sunlight here or a detail of mantle there that sharply echo the paintings Hopper would make even decades later after leaving Nyack and moving to his Manhattan and his Cape Cod studio. His boyhood home is a clue, a big one,  to how his artist's mind worked. 

Here are two views of Hopper's bedroom taken in the summer of 2012.  The first when a show of my paintings was installed in the bedroom and the second my French easel set up as I worked on one of the series of paintings I created of the room. 

The May 4 event, from 3 - 5:30 p.m., is At Home with Edward and Jo Hopper, a ticketed gala event that is the annual spring fund raising party for the Hopper House Art Center. A rare exhibition of the little seen work by Hopper's wife Jo will be displayed in the Center's galleries. Plus tours, lite fare, a silent auction. For information click here.

Upcoming Exhibition:

Philip Koch's paintings in a 3 artist exhibition
Art Essex Gallery, Essex, CT
May 14 - June 7, 2014
Opening reception Saturday, May 17, 4 - 7 p.m.

Philip Koch, The Reach III, oil on panel, 24 x 36". One of the paintings to be included in the exhibition. A view of the shore just below Edward Hopper's S. Truro. MA studio as it would have appeared in Hopper's day. It is based on a vine charcoal drawing Koch made on the beach during one of his 15 residencies in Hopper's Cape Cod studio.


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