Sailing Lessons from Edward Hopper

Later this month I'll be traveling to see some art. My destination is Salem, Ohio to visit the home where the painter Charles Burchfield grew up and began his life as an artist. Along the way we'll stop in Pittsburgh to see the new Edward Hopper exhibition at the Carnegie Museum of Art (through Oct. 26).

Have found myself looking at one of my favorite Hopper's Sailing from 1911 that's one of the standouts in the Carnegie's Permanent Collection. It's an imagined view of a sloop on the Hudson River where Hopper grew up. It was included in the historic 1913 Amory Show and was the first painting Hopper ever sold. He would have to wait another 10 years before selling another of his paintings. 

I've always found the painting remarkable for the way Hopper's boat surges by us with energy. It seems in a moment it will have sailed out of our view altogether. Hopper had some tricks up his sleeve to emphasize that sense of movement.

Here's the painting with the small dark flag Hopper put at the top of his mainsail removed. Compare the two versions of the painting. To me the original boat at the top moves across the canvas with so much more force. That small dark spot of at the top seems to propel the the light sails to the left. The whole boat seems to heel over more from its visual impact. 

I've loved this Hopper oil since I first saw it years ago. Clearly it was in the back of my mind when I painted The Reach III below. It's an oil on panel, 24 x 36", 2015. For it I collaged together two separate ideas:  a shoreline from a vine charcoal drawing I made during one of my 15 residencies at Edward Hopper's studio on Cape Cod with my memories of sailing at night with my father years ago on Lake Ontario.


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