Getting Creative- Rooms by the Sea from the Hopper Studio

Edward Hopper, Rooms by the Sea, oil on canvas, Yale 
University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT

The first painting I ever paid attention to as a teenager was Edward Hopper's Rooms by the Sea. It was reproduced in a issue of Time magazine that I saw when I was about 15. Like a normal teenager I paid little mind to fine art. But the painting with its mysterious contrast of a door opening right into the sea stopped me in my tracks. I remember thinking "Now that's a painting!" 

In 1983 I had the good fortune to become friends with the owners of the studio in Truro, MA where Hopper made this painting. I began a long series of residencies in the studio and started my ongoing series of oil paintings of its interior. Here's the corner of his studio that inspired Hopper's Rooms by the Sea.

Hopper was a master at rearrangement. He moved the door from the left side the doorway to the right and lengthened the empty white wall. Most critically he moved the sun to shine directly on a wall that in real life faces north and is always in shadow. By changing the lighting he made his composition spring to life.

Here's one of his preparatory drawings where he is figuring out how to create a convincing new lighting situation.

Edward Hopper, preparatory drawing for Rooms by the Sea,
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

Over the years I had done a number of paintings and drawings of this corner of the studio but I had always stayed true to the shadowed lighting that surrounds the wall and door.

In my newest painting Rooms by the Sea: September that I began in the Truro studio during my most recent stay there last Fall I decided to try inventing a new light direction of my own. Here streaks of an imagined early morning sunlight cascade over the wall and door. I'm very happy with how my little bit of fantasy turned out.

This painting, along with 33 others, will be included in the exhibition Light and Shadow: Paintings and Drawings by Philip Koch from Edward Hopper's Studio at Swope Art Museum in Terre Haute, IN February 3 - March 25, 2017. 


  1. Thanks Philip, that is very interesting. I've always preferred realistic paintings - now I'll always wonder about what is "fantasy" and what is "reality." Congrats on your upcoming show at Swope Art Museum!

  2. I thank you for publishing this "awakening". I too appreciate sharing it with us who hunger for observation in text.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Intriguing Josephine Tota Exhibition at Memorial Art Gallery

Talking about Hopper & Burchfield- Delaware Art Museum

My Burchfield Residency- What I Learned