My New Painting of Hopper's Home

Philip Koch, Edward Hopper's Parlor, oil on canvas
32 x 24 inches, 2019

Where to great ideas come from for artists?

There are all sorts of answers advanced to that question. When we artists are at our best our hands seem to be guided by a part of ourselves that is just beyond our awareness. I'm convinced great art reaches deep into an artist's psyche to borrow images that have been echoing there since their childhood. 

This was driven home to me when an old friend of mine from my boyhood town of Webster, NY came to visit me. Seeing an array of my paintings in my studio he exclaimed "Phil, this is our old neighborhood." Actually I'd never painted in my old hometown. The paintings he was looking at ranged from scenes I'd painted not in Webster, NY but in far flung locales all over the country. Others were fanciful imaginary landscapes. Going around the room he named places we played as young children that these paintings echoed. 

Above is my new painting of Edward Hopper's parlor in the home he grew up in in Nyack, NY. That room is illuminated by three large French door-style windows. A few years earlier I had been invited to paint inside the house and made a smaller oil of those windows with my easel set in the middle of Hopper's parlor. My new painting is a reinterpretation of that small oil's composition. Fortunately you can visit- it's now the Edward Hopper House Museum and Study Center in Nyack, NY.

Edward Hopper's Nyack home. He was born in the 2nd floor
room behind the two windows at the left. He lived here until
he was nearly 30.

Frequently during his career Hopper returned to painting views peering into large windows to get a glimpse of an otherwise unseen interior. His Cape Cod Morning below is one of my favorites and a perfect example. I believe those large French door-style windows I painted in his childhood home were a quietly glowing memory in the back of Hopper's adult mind. Consciously or not, Hopper felt pulled toward evoking that part of his past.

Edward Hopper, Cape Cod Morning, oil on canvas, 1950,

Here's a working drawing Hopper made as he searched for just the right composition for his major oil. Intriguingly we see in it Hopper  focusing not on details but on establishing a sharp contrast between the light architecture and the insistent darks of the forest. 

Edward Hopper, sketch for Cape Cod Morning, 
Provincetown Art Association and Museum, Provincetown, MA

Finally here's one of my paintings I was showing my old friend from Webster. Seeing it he had blurted out "Don't you remember playing of those great piles of ice!" He was referring to the almost lunar landscape of winter ice formations along the shore of Lake Ontario. We used to play there for hours. The painting he was looking at actually had begun as a Buffalo, NY scene but had radically evolved over the many months I had worked on it in my studio. During that time a deeply buried but treasured memory had decided it was time to reach up and guide my hand.

Philip Koch, Chestnut Ridge Panorama, oil on 
canvas, 36 x 48 inches, 2018


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