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Edward Hopper's Rockland
June 6 - September 26, 2004
(above: Edward Hopper (1882-1967), Haunted House, 1926, watercolor on paper,14 x 20 inches0
In the summer of 1926, Edward Hopper (1882-1967) spent seven weeks in Rockland, Maine, a period that proved to be one of the most productive of his career. In celebration of Rockland's sesquicentennial, Edward Hopper's Rockland brings together for the first time a selection of the watercolors Hopper produced during his stay. Drawn from museum collections across the country, the show includes five works from the Farnsworth Museum's own collection, including the recently acquired, Schooner's Hull, a gift of the William Lieber family in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Wheelwright and in honor of A. Bodine Lamont. (right: Edward Hopper (1882-1967), Lime Rock Quarry No. 1, 1926, watercolor on paper, 12 3/4 x 19 1/2 inches)
Hopper's first visit to Maine was in 1914, when he spent the summer at Ogunquit in the company of artists associated with the Ogunquit School of Painting and Sculpture. The following year Hopper again headed to Ogunquit, where his former teacher Robert Henri and colleagues George Bellows and Leon Kroll were also spending the summer. The weather that year was foggy much of the time and unfavorable for the plein air painting Hopper favored. After the discouraging stay in Ogunquit, Hopper decided to spend his next summer in Maine on Monhegan Island, which Henri had enthusiastically endorsed as "a wonderful place to paint." The scenic beauty of the island captivated Hopper and he returned for the next three summers.
In 1926, he again visited Maine, this time with his new wife Jo, who was also a painter. The couple arrived in Rockland in early June. Writing to his dealer Frank Rehn in New York, Hopper described Rockland as "a very fine old place with lots of good looking houses but not much shipping." In Rockland, Hopper found subjects that he desired for his work, completing some twenty finished watercolors including images of the lime quarries, railroad, Civil War campground, working waterfront, and older homes. (right: Edward Hopper (1882-1967), Railroad Crossing, Rockland, Maine, 1926, watercolor on paper, 13 1/2 x 19 1/4 inches)
One of the best-known of his Rockland works is Haunted House (collection of the Farnsworth Art Museum), a depiction of The Atlantic House, an old boarding house, now destroyed, located at 5 South Street. Gail Levin, author of Edward Hopper: An Intimate Biography, writes in reference of this and the other Rockland works, "Once again he takes subjects from the past, favoring images evocative of bygone epochs and lost values, like this 'Haunted House,' which serves as a metaphor for the role that the past came to play in his present."
Falling between his first and second one-man exhibitions at Rehn Gallery, the Rockland watercolors were created at an important time in Hopper's early career. In Rockland, Hopper found the conflux of past and present that he desired in subjects for his work. Small-town America represented, for him, a connection with traditional values and a way of life that was rapidly being replaced by urbanization. "Inevitably choosing evocative subjects in places far removed from urban hustle and bustle, Hopper [in his watercolors] showed a side of America characterized by quiet atmosphere and heritage," writes Stephen May in his review of the exhibition, Edward Hopper: The Watercolors, organized by the National Museum of American Art in 2000. (right: Edward Hopper (1882-1967), Schooner's Bowspirit, 1926, watercolor on paper, 14 x 20 inches)
The current exhibition documents the city of Rockland's contribution to an important series of work by one of America's greatest artists. Edward Hopper visited the city only once, but the visit proved to be, in the words of Hopper scholar, Gail Levin, "especially prolific." Hopper's images of Rockland are now dispersed to museum and private collections throughout the United States. The exhibition offers a rare opportunity to view a selection of these works as a group.
(above: Edward Hopper (1882-1967), Schooner's Hull, 1926, watercolor on paper, 14 x 20 inches)
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