Hopper, "Psycho" and Haverstraw
This week I spent several days in Edward Hopper's hometown of Nyack, NY doing some paintings of houses that were important inspirations for Hopper's art. One that I'm still working on is of Hopper's boyhood home itself, now the Edward Hopper House Art Center. (Well worth a visit for any fan of Hopper's work). I'll be posting that new piece shortly.
The other painting I made on the trip was in the neighboring town of Haverstraw. In 1925 Hopper did an oil of a house high on a hillside there. That painting, House by the Railroad, is now in the Museum of Modern Art in NYC. Alfred Hitchcock's classic 1960 film Psycho borrowed heavily from Hopper's oil for their movie set. Through Hopper and then Hitchcock the house has entered the American consciousness as the very archetype of a haunted house.
I worked from the Haverstraw house over two bright afternoons. My painting turns away from Hitchcock's gothic mood. Instead it celebrates the brilliant sunlight and shadows playing over the house's Mansard roof. It's fitting as Hopper, a painter with many sides, frequently made intense sunlight his main subject.
Here's Hopper's more solemn version of the house.
I also made a vine charcoal drawing of the same house from farther down the hill. This was the viewpoint Hopper chose for his oil. Notice the railroad tracks in the photo just beyond my easel. Hopper moved them up the hill to be next to the house. It gives a slightly surreal contrast against the aging historic house.
Here below is the vine charcoal drawing I made that's on the easel. It measures 10 1/2 x 14" and gives a fairly accurate view of how the house appears today.
I'm planning to do new large studio compositions later this year from both my oil and from my charcoal drawing (that is if Norman Bates doesn't get to me first).