Slightly Inhuman: Edward Hopper
In honor of his 126th birthday, and at the request of reader Corrine, today's "Feel Art Again" post features Edward Hopper and his 1929 painting "Chop Suey," one of his many scenes of city life.
1. Though he's known for city scenes like "Chop Suey" and the famous "Nighthawks," Edward Hopper's first big break was with a watercolor of a seaside home. "The Mansard Roof" was painted in 1923, during his first summer in Gloucester, MA, and was bought for the Brooklyn Museum's permanent collection for $100—a decent amount at the time. Although he continued to vacation by the sea, Hopper's watercolor production had slowed by 1946; he explained his lack of watercolor production by saying, "I think it's because the watercolors are done from nature and I don't work from nature anymore."
2. Thanks to commercial artwork—which he loathed—Hopper was able to afford three trips to Europe, all of which centered around Paris. Unlike other artists who visited Paris, though, Hopper didn't get in with the "it" crowd. He remarked: "Whom did I meet? Nobody. I'd heard of Gertrude Stein, but I don't remember having heard of Picasso at all"¦ Paris had no great or immediate impact on me." While there, though, he did develop an affinity for the work of Edgar Degas and Ã‰douard Manet and a dislike for Paul CÃ©zanne's work.
3. The two types of scenes that comprise the bulk of Hopper's oeuvre—seaside houses and city nights—don't seem to have much in common. They're tied together, though, by Hopper's emphasis on light and shadows. Hopper once said of his fascination with light, "Maybe I am slightly inhuman"¦ all I ever wanted to do was to paint sunlight on the side of a house."
4. As one of America's most well-known artists, Hopper's work has had a strong impact on pop culture. The house in Alfred Hitchcock's Pscyho was heavily influenced by Hopper's "House by the Railroad," which was the first painting in the permanent collection of New York's Museum of Modern Art. Turner Class Movies sometimes runs animated clips based on Hopper paintings prior to films, including "The Sunny Side of Life," inspired by "Chop Suey." According to Sister Wendy, "there was a period when every college dormitory in the country had on its walls a poster of Hopper's "˜Nighthawks.'" And Madonna named her 1993 world tour after Hopper's 1941 painting "Girlie Show," even incorporating aspects of the painting into the performance.
5. Many scholars find "Chop Suey" particularly interesting because they believe the painting depicts a woman facing her doppelganger. Either way, the subjects of "Chop Suey" are less isolated and lonely than in most of Hopper's other city scenes.
A larger version of "Chop Suey" is available here.
Fans of Edward Hopper should check out the exhibit guides from the NGA, the Tate Modern, and the MFA; Gordon Theisen's Staying Up Much Too Late; the Edward Hopper Scrapbook; this YouTube video of Hopper paintings; Slate's slideshow on Hopper architecture; the Smithsonian's interview of Hopper; the ARC's Hopper gallery; and the Edward Hopper House Art Center.
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