Three Things Edward Hopper Wants You to Know
Here's a painting the young Edward Hopper made in art school. Tomorrow I begin teaching my final class at MICA before moving on to being a full-time painter. Fittingly my class is Life Drawing class. Probably I'll begin the class by showing the students this painting.
In Hopper's oil above we can see him working to master the basic grammar that would serve him so well in his ensuing years of painting. His painting from the model offers us a host of lessons about about painting and about seeing itself.
Here are three that I think are among the most important.
1. Color in reality is more unexpected than we think. The pinks and subtle oranges we imagine we're going to see in the model's skin are shown instead in a world of cool grays and gray-greens. Hopper sees her color as part of the overall mood of the light in the room.
2. Hopper walked around for awhile before starting his painting to check out all the possible vantage points. It's not the normal way to present the model. He's telling us that her spirit may be revealed
best by showing us the unexpected point of view of her back. Don't be in a hurry to decide what something looks like. Sift through the possibilities.
3. You can see the seeds of Hopper's life long interest in evoking light. Here it softly floods down on the model from an overhead skylight. He sees all the shadows as having different tones. For example the shadow along her spine is dramatically lighter than the shadow on the back of her thigh. If you want to see light he tells us to find the richness and variety that always hides in the shadows.