Talking about Hopper & Burchfield- Delaware Art Museum

Edward Hopper (1882-1967), New York, New Haven, and Hartford,  oil on
canvas, 1931, Indianapolis Museum of Art

The other week I flew out to Indianapolis on my way to Terre Haute to judge the Swope Art Museum's annual 5 state regional juried exhibition. I paid a visit to the impressive Indianapolis Museum of Art. Wanted to single out one painting in their collection, Edward Hopper's oil New York, New Haven, and Hartford. 

In person the subtlety of Hopper's color mixing is exquisite. My photographs don't come near doing the painting justice. But in these detail shots just above and below Hopper's grasp of how to instill personality into a painting is clear. He depicts a broad-shouldered hillside. Yet against that he conjures up these wildly shaped spindly trees. Their irregular rhythms contrast tellingly against the solemn massiveness of the hillside.  

Hopper's trees live perhaps a more syncopated life than the stately ground from which they spring.

Looking at Hopper's strangely silhouetted trees I was reminded of his contemporary (and friend), the painter Charles Burchfield. I spent the last three years as the Artist in Residence at the Burchfield Penney Art Center absorbing Burchfield's work. 

At first glance, Hopper and Burchfield seem to differ radically- Hopper loving dramatic sunlight on massive forms while Burchfield's more caffeinated paint strokes insistently propel the viewer's eye around his composition. 

But one thing the two painters share, and it makes them both masters, is how much impact they got out of their simplest flat silhouetted shapes.

Charles Burchfield (1893-1967), Untitled (Dark red house) June 19, 1916,
watercolor, Burchfield Penney Art Center, Buffalo, NY

In Burchfield's watercolor above he creates almost unimaginable variety in his trees on the horizon. While they're completely flat forms each of Burchfield's trees seems to have something different to say. And all come together in an orchestrated chorus. I think Hopper would have felt very much at home in these woods.

Me grinning ear to ear .

Artists on Art: Burchfield and Hopper from a Painter's Perspective
Sunday, September 23, 2018, 2:00 p.m.
Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington, DE

I'm giving a gallery talk on examples of the work by Hopper and Burchfield in the Museum's permanent collection. Everyone welcome. Free with museum admission.


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