I have always been moved by the paintings of Edward Hopper, the great American artist of the first half of the 20th century. People have told me that my work is sometimes "Hopperesque," a reference I think to my own attraction to alone, solitary things. Hopper's work could be summarily characterized this way. But beware. His work goes deeper than merely memorializing a single subject. There are strong pyschological elements to his work that inspire a certain brooding emptiness that can have great effect on the viewer. I found a photo of the house that Hopper and his wife lived in on Cape Cod and make a painting of it:
Hopper's House, Truro, Cape Cod
Oil on Masonite 14 X 11
It wasn't hard to capture that lonely feeling. It was all there intrinsic in the scene. I used a somewhat muted palette for emphasis, but the bleakness of the place argues that Hopper was attracted to isolation, too, though in person he was recalled as a likeable, gregarious guy.
There was an exhibit at the Boston Museum of Fine Art early last summer (shared with the National Gallery and Art Institute of Chicago). I didn't get to go, but some friends did and they, knowing my affection for Hopper, gave me a book published by the Boston Museum called simply "Edward Hopper." It is a wonderful compendium of his work and life. I found the photo of his home (painting above)in this book.
Hopper's life as an artist can be focused pretty much on four areas: Gloucester, Mass., the city--primarily N.Y., Cape Cod and the coast of Maine. His Maine work included settings in Cape Elizabeth, the next town down the coast from where I live in South Portland. His paintings of the Two Lights area in Cape E. are especially haunting. It got personal at a show last summer, when a woman stopped by my booth and bought three of my pieces. She asked that they be framed in a certain way, so I had to deliver them a few days later. It turns out that her house is next to one of the lighthouses that Hopper had painted! She also invited me to paint there. I was at once delighted and fearful--like I was trespassing on sacred ground. But I took her up on it and painted this:
Oil on Canvas 20" X 16
This was painted on site. I had to go back several times to finish it. I was shown the location that Hopper used, but I didn't think I'd go that far! Besides, this area in the 20s when he did these pieces was practically bare and I'm guessing that that was what made this an attractive subject to him. Today, the hill is covered with foliage and there are large houses here which have a fabulous view of the bay and beyond. In fact, my patron let me paint this view from her deck:
Casco Bay From Two Lights
Oil on Canvas 20 X 16
The place where Hopper painted the lighthouse is in the middle left of this scene on this side of the big house. Again, this was painted plein air, but because of changing atmospheric conditions, light, etc. I locked in on a point in time and finished the piece in the studio.
So, that is a short recap on my experience with Hopper during that brief period. I got back to thinking about him now that the weather is moderating. Perhaps I'll go back to Two Lights with my gear to paint in a few weeks. Maybe I'll try a city scene. Such is the allure of this great artist. It lasts a lifetime. I hope it visits you.