My Edward Hopper Talk at Norman Rockwell Museum Part III
Here are the concluding 20 photos from my July 31talk Inside Edward Hopper's World: A Contemporary Painter's View at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, MA. You can read the first two installments of the presentation here and here.
Above was the painting that first introduced me to Hopper, Rooms by the Sea, now in Yale's art museum. I was a teenager mostly interested in girls when I spied it in my parents' Time magazine. "Now THAT'S a painting!" I thought. Little did I suspect years later I would be privileged to have residencies in the privately owned Hopper studio on Cape Cod and stand and look right at the same doorways that had fired Hopper's imagination. Here's a photo I took of the source for the painting.
Notice how Hopper moves the door from attaching on the right side of the door frame to the left side. Also he stretches the proportions of the wall, and most remarkably, shines direct sunlight on a wall that in reality faces due north and remains always in shadow. The artist's imagination is prodded by what he sees in reality, but he was willing to radically change things to heighten the expressive power of his painting.
Here is my own painting done on location in the studio, Edward Hopper's Rooms by the Sea, II, oil on panel, 18 x 27", 2004. It's a far more accurate version of the studio's spaces. My wife Alice sits on Hopper's bed.
And my pastel drawing done standing in front of the same source,
The Easel, Truro Studio, 6 x 7 1/2".
A photo of Alice standing in the studio's huge painting room under the light of the 10' north window. (In Hopper's day the floor wasn't painted with alternating stripes).
A close up of Hopper's easel with his yardstick hanging on a hook at its side. He used it as a mahlstick (a painter's stick) to steady his hand when painting details. The easel is nothing special (it's a run of the mill Anco brand easel- you can buy an identical one from your local art supply store). While his tools were ordinary, Hopper went on to paint on this easel works that were anything but.
Hopper and his wife Jo would usually stay in their Truro studio through the end of October and faced lots of chilly weather. No doubt the Hopper's spent a lot of time with a fire going in the painting room. Alice demonstrates. The bookcase at the left was built after Hopper's days.
Famous for discovering meaning in the ordinary, Hopper often achieved poetic statements by raising telephone poles up to contrast his skies. Here for example is his oil Route 6, Eastham, now in the Swope Art Museum in Indiana.
I made a painting in the early '90's during one of my stays in the Hopper studio of the long power lines mimicking the curves in the dirt access road to the studio. It is Edward Hopper's Road, 40 x 60", now in the Permanent Collection of the Midwest Museum of American Art in Elkhart, IN. Here is Brian Byrn, their Curator with my oil.
One day when I was painting near the studio a man who was a neighbor of Hopper's came out and told me an ironic story about the power lines along this road. For the first years after the Hopper's built their studio in 1934 there was no electrical power in the neighborhood. Eventually the power company agreed to install power lines to the houses along the road.
For an extra fee they offered to bury the lines instead of stringing them from poles. Hopper, known for his many elegant paintings of telephone poles, pressured his neighbors to pony up the extra money to bury the lines. Despite his heated protests, no one else wanted to pay and in the poles went, except for one house on the road, Edward Hopper's
Here's a photo of the last telephone pole before one hits Hopper's property. The wires come in from the main road from the right, snake their way down the pole and plunge underground, proceeding the final hundred yards to the left to Hopper's studio. This whole story strikes me as showing Hopper as a complex, and a contradictory, man. In a way it makes him more interesting.
The first light of dawn entering the painting room.
One of the only two photos I've ever seen of Hopper in his Truro studio. His wife Jo in back.
This is one of the last paintings Hopper completed in the Truro studio. You see his him working on it above and here it is below, Sun in an Empty Room, oil, 1963.
That same sense of sparse beauty in this view from the small bedroom looking into the painting room with its over sized north window.
Here I am with my French easel set up in Hopper's bedroom (wedged in between the two singe beds actually) working on a drawing.
I was making this vine charcoal drawing of the door to one of the two small closets in the bedroom. It's a negotiation between architectural detail and the brilliance of the afternoon sunlight. Always there is the question of what to emphasize and what to leave out.
One of the paintings Hopper did of the area near his studio, Cape Cod Afternoon, shows his affection for the unexpected point of view. These barns could have seemed a chaotic jumble, but Hopper finds a way to celebrate their complexity. It is a wonderful example of how Hopper was frequently a surprisingly lush colorist. I'm always amazed how often writing about his work focuses on loneliness or alienation yet rarely touches on how sensuous his color and paint handling can be.
This is the view Hopper would have looked at rinsing out his coffee cup in the kitchen sink- Cape Cod Bay peeking over rolling dunes. The sunlight steaming in through his windows confronts you at every turn in the studio. No wonder it played such a key role in his paintings.
The studio from the top of Hopper's driveway. The ocean is just over the far ridge.
There is an intimate connection between between Hopper's surroundings and his moody and evocative paintings. It seems clear his studio and its surroundings fed his creative vision. Using images of the outside world he made paintings that put you on a journey through your own emotional inner world.
I will be traveling to the Truro, MA studio for my 15th residency this Fall. Some of the new work I do while there will be on display in a solo exhibition at Hopper's boyhood home, the Edward Hopper House Art Center in Nyack, NY in February & March of 2015.