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May 6 - August 19, 2007
The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA) is presenting Edward Hopper, a major retrospective of one of the most enduringly popular American painters of the 20th century. This exhibition will survey the artist's career, but will focus on his work from about 1925 to 1950 -- the period of Hopper's greatest achievement. Edward Hopper is the first show in more than 25 years to examine all three media in which the artist excelled -- paintings, watercolors, and prints -- in a carefully-selected exhibition of approximately 100 works as well as two ledger books featuring sketches and commentary by the artist. Drawn from public and private collections around the country and abroad, Edward Hopper will include many paintings now considered icons of 20th century American art, among them, Nighthawks (1942, Art Institute of Chicago), Early Sunday Morning (1930, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York), and Automat (1927, Des Moines Art Center, Iowa.) It will also present less familiar but equally affecting works by the artist, including his representations of the austere landscapes of Cape Cod; the old-fashioned houses of Gloucester, Massachusetts; and the majestic lighthouses of southern Maine.
Organized by the MFA, the National Gallery of Art, Washington, and the Art Institute of Chicago, Edward Hopper will be on view in the MFA's Gund Gallery through August 19, 2007. The exhibition is generously supported in part by Mary L. Cornille and John F. Cogan, Jr. and the MFA Associates/MFA Senior Associates Exhibition Endowment Fund.
"Edward Hopper, a major retrospective of one of the most beloved American artists of all time, presents many of Hopper's iconic images, admired for their evocative presentations of American life from the Jazz Age through the years following World War II," said Malcolm Rogers, Ann and Graham Gund Director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. "This exhibition takes a fresh look at the artist and his best-known works alongside a number of less familiar, yet equally powerful, pictures."
Edward Hopper, organized thematically and chronologically, traces the artist's career from his first successes to his last great, poignant pictures. The exhibition will begin with a small group of works from his student days, introducing themes he would address throughout his career. A gallery dedicated to Hopper's prints will demonstrate his genius as a printmaker. In his day, the prints were praised for their elegant technique and for being "composed with the sense of the dramatic possibilities of ordinary experiences." Masterpieces of printmaking such as Night Shadows and Evening Wind (both 1921, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston) continue to captivate audiences today.
Hopper's first true fame came from a group of watercolors painted in Gloucester, Massachusetts, in the 1920s. He claimed that "at Gloucester, when everyone else would be painting ships and the waterfront, I'd just go around looking at houses." The show will include The Mansard Roof (1923, Brooklyn Museum, New York), a light-filled image of a grand house in the Rocky Neck section of Gloucester. That watercolor, Hopper's first work to be purchased by a museum, signaled his arrival on the New York art scene and is still considered his masterpiece in this medium. Soon thereafter, Victorian architecture became one of his signature subjects. Although popular now, such buildings were disdained in Hopper's day, and he was celebrated for revealing their beauty. Many of the houses he painted-among them Haskell's House (1924, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.), a sea captain's exuberant Victorian mansion perched high above Gloucester's Main Street, and Anderson's House (1926, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston), a modest 1880s clapboard structure on a busy street-are still standing today and seem very little changed.
Hopper became equally well known for his paintings of lighthouses, and the exhibition brings together for the first time in seventy years his three great oils of the lighthouse at Two Lights, Cape Elizabeth, Maine - Lighthouse Hill (1927, Dallas Museum of Art), Captain Upton's House (1927, Steve Martin Collection), and The Lighthouse at Two Lights (1929, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York) - as well as a number of exquisite watercolors of the same site, painted during his summer vacations in Maine in the 1920s. Beginning in 1930, Hopper spent the summer and early fall in the quiet town of Truro on Cape Cod. He immortalized the area's lighthouse, its humble houses and inns, and its romantic dunes in such watercolors and oils like Highland Light, North Truro (1930, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, MA), Rooms for Tourists (1945, Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT), and The Camel's Hump (1931, Munson-Williams Proctor Arts Institute, Utica, NY).
Hopper has long been associated with compelling images of urban buildings and the dwellings within them. The artist lived in Washington Square, in New York's Greenwich Village, for more than fifty years, and New York City was his favorite backdrop. Rather than focusing on the skyscrapers that symbolized the ambition of the Jazz Age, Hopper lovingly depicted the city's crumbling brownstones, dusty storefronts, and undistinguished bridges. Paintings like Drug Store (1927, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston), From Williamsburg Bridge (1928, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), and Early Sunday Morning are Hopper's tribute to quieter, less dramatic, but nonetheless eloquent parts of the city. Other New York scenes provide fascinating glimpses-often through windows and from passing trains-into the lives of strangers. Such well-known paintings as Chop Suey (1929, Barney A. Ebsworth Collection), Room in New York (1932, Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery, University of Nebraska-Lincoln), and Office at Night (1940, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis) intrigue because they suggest stories but leave unresolved the motivations of the figures within them. A section of the exhibition will be dedicated to Hopper's paintings of women in interiors. These pictures -- from Eleven A.M. (1926, Hirshborn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institute, Washington, D.C.) to New York Movie (1939, Museum of Modern Art, New York) -- are tender evocations of the poignancy of solitude in the midst of the city's noise and energy.
Hopper's career spanned six decades, and his last years were filled with honors, awards, and celebratory exhibitions. He worked slowly during the 1950s and 60s, painting in New York, Truro, and California, returning to his signature themes, but with a new austerity. The exhibition concludes with a gallery of these late, great works, including Western Motel (1957, Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven), Second Story Sunlight (1960, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York), and one of his last paintings, Sun in an Empty Room (1963, Private Collection), a haunting valedictory image.
"Hopper is best known as a great image maker, but he was also a masterful painter," said Carol Troyen, John Moors Cabot Curator of American Paintings at the MFA and co-organizer of the exhibition. "His memorable depictions of everyday life are also elegantly constructed compositions, and the works in Edward Hopper demonstrate the sensuous contrasts of sun and shadow in his oils and the evocative surfaces of his light-filled watercolors."
At 6'5", Edward Hopper had a commanding physical presence, but was famously reticent, rarely writing or speaking about his work. He worked slowly and steadily throughout his career, and did not find his mature artistic voice until he was about 40 years old. He was 51 before his first significant retrospective exhibition, at the Museum of Modern Art, in 1933. From that time forward, however, he was admired as one of the greatest American artists, "a master whose poetry is realism." Since his death in his Washington Square studio in 1967, his work has become even more revered by artists, critics, and the public.
In addition to Hopper's paintings and prints, the exhibition includes two ledger books, a film and short slide show. The ledger books, which the artist kept throughout his career, feature sketches of his completed paintings as well as notes on the location and materials he used. A fifteen minute film-narrated by award-winning actor, writer, and Hopper art collector Steve Martin and produced by the National Gallery of Art-presents current views on Hopper's work, his influence on other artists, and interviews with Hopper scholars. The film also explores the influence of movies on Hopper's compositions, particularly film noir classics from the 1930s like The Public Enemy and the influence of Hopper's work on the set designs of filmmakers, including Alfred Hitchcock. The slide show features five of the buildings Hopper painted (in Gloucester, Maine and Truro) that still exist today. These paintings, juxtaposed with the corresponding sketches from the artist's ledger books and recent photographs allow visitors to the exhibition to compare Hopper's sense of these places with the way the buildings look today. Although many look very similar to the actual sites even after 80 years, Hopper's paintings were never precise renderings of the scene-they were composed with a sense of design and balance that led him to simplify or alter details.
After its debut at the MFA, Boston (May 6, 2007 - August 19, 2007), Edward Hopper will travel to the National Gallery of Art, Washington (September 16, 2007 - January 21, 2008) and then to the Art Institute of Chicago (February 16 - May 11, 2008).
Edward Hopper, published by MFA Publications, features essays by:
This 264-page book is available in both soft and hardcover at the MFA Bookstore and Shop or by visiting www.mfa.org.
On May 16 at 7 p.m curator Carol Troyen will present a lecture in which she will offer a new interpretation of the stories told in Hopper's work and what they reveal about the era in which he lived. On June 7 at 6:30 p.m. a film and discussion program featuring a screening of Brian O'Doherty's Hopper's Silence (1981, 46 minutes) followed by a discussion with the filmmaker and Carol Troyen talking about the artist, his work, and his life. Incorporated into the film are excerpts from a 1962 interview with both Hopper and his wife Jo, which took place at the MFA as part of a MFA/WGBH series called "Invitation to Art." Both programs will be held in the MFA's Remis Auditorium. There is a fee for tickets for each of these programs.
(above: Edward Hopper (1882-1967), Early Sunday Morning, 1930, Oil on canvas. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Purchase, with funds from Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney . Courtesy of the Whitney Museum of American Art: Photographs by Steven Sloman. Courtesy, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)
(above: Edward Hopper (1882-1967), Nighthawks, 1942, Oil on canvas. The Art Institute of Chicago; Friends of American Art Collection. Photography © The Art Institute of Chicago. Courtesy, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)
(above: Edward Hopper (1882-1967), Lighthouse and Buildings, Portland Head, Cape Elizabeth, Maine, 1927, Watercolor over graphite pencil on paper. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Bequest of John T. Spaulding. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)
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Edward Hopper is an 8 minute You Tube video containing many of Hopper's works which may be seen here.
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