Edward Hopper on Cape Cod
The Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, MA is bringing me to give a talk on Edward Hopper's life on Cape Cod on July 31, 2014. It is part of their programming around their new exhibition The Unknown Hopper: Edward Hopper as Illustrator that runs at the Museum through October 26.
Hopper was drawn to aspects of the world that he felt hadn't been explored enough. He found unexpected meaning in rooftops, glimpses through windows and in humble backyard settings. And it is intriguing that when his wife Jo inherited money he chose to build his studio outside New York on Cape Cod. Cape Cod, especially its outer section from Eastham out to Truro and Provincetown is a pretty distinctive landscape with a look all its own. If one looks at the history of artists who made the Cape one of their subjects, nobody in my opinion nailed it like Hopper.
Above is one of my own paintings, Edward Hopper's Road, oil on canvas, 40 x 60" that is in the collection of the Midwest Museum of American Art in Elkhart, IN. That's Brian Byrn, the Museum's Curator with the painting during a solo show the Museum held of paintings. I painted it during one of my residencies in Hopper's Truro studio some years ago. It is of the winding dirt road that leads to Hopper's place. It gives a good feeling of the landscape around the studio- large rolling sand dunes.
In Hopper's day the Cape was only just beginning to recover from the near total deforestation it was subjected to in the 19th century. Now some two decades later than when I painted this oil, the same view is completely blocked by new growth in the roadside trees.
Below is Edward Hopper's, Hills, South Truro, oil on canvas, now in the Cleveland Museum of Art.
The painting shows what it looked like there in 1930. This is the view looking west from a rise towards the cresting line of duned where Hopper would choose to build his studio (he chose to put it on the dark dune at the top right, about an inch in from the right hand side of this image). From there he could look out to sea to the west or survey the dunescape looking back inland.
Another of my personal favorites is The Camel's Hump, painted in 1931, three years before Hopper would construct his new studio just off to the right of the space depicted in the oil.
The Camel's Hump is one of the big stars of the Munson Williams Proctor Arts Institute in Utica, NY. That same sense of monumental rolling sandy dunes comes across clearly.
Some years later I went to stay and work at Hopper's studio for the first time in 1983 and did this oil looking towards the studio from the approach road. These days this view is obscured by the taller foliage.
Here's a photo of the studio taken from the path Hopper would walk down to go swimming on the beach on Cape Cod Bay. The views from the many windows in the studio that's located at the top of a commandingly high sand dune make you feel you're in an observatory. In many ways you are. I think that is what Hopper wanted for himself.
With the tide out I was able to shoot this view of the studio from the beach.
And here is the famous portrait of Hopper by his studio taken in 1960 by Arnold Newman. Hopper's wife Jo appears in the background.