New York City has had a magnetic pull on many artists. Edward Hopper was no exception. “I don’t think he ever felt that he figured this city out, and that kept pulling him back for more,” said curator Kim Conaty. “I love this one quote of Hopper’s where he describes New York as the city that I know best and like most.”
Conaty is curator of an exhibit now on display at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. “Edward Hopper’s New York” features about 200 works, and provides a window into the artist’s view of urban life.
Conaty said, “For someone who was such a keen observer of everything around him, who loved opportunities for looking, there are few better places than New York for that.”
Those observations inspired paintings of intimate, everyday moments, stripped of the city’s characteristic hustle and bustle. Notably, they are not landmarks and tourist attractions. “They are very specifically not those famous sites,” said Conaty. “For an artist who painted so many of New York’s bridges, Hopper never painted the Brooklyn Bridge, which is, of course, the most famous of all! So, Hopper gives us instead the McCombs Dam Bridge in the Bronx, the Manhattan Bridge.”
It’s a connection that spanned most of his life. Born in 1882, in Nyack, N.Y., Edward Hopper moved to the city permanently in his twenties to pursue art. For more than five decades, he (along with his wife and muse, Josephine) lived on Washington Square Park.
Hopper’s studio has been preserved inside what is now a New York University academic building. It features his easel – one that could accommodate Hopper’s 6’5″ height.
Hopper painted and sketched in that very spot as the city grew around him, a fact referenced in the piece “Early Sunday Morning.”
In the upper right of the painting, one dark rectangle signifies something to come, a building likely. “It has a way of creating this dynamic composition that shows both what is there, and also what is to come,” said Conaty. “A changeless New York that is at the same time still changing.”
Those images of a changing, yet changeless city put Hopper on the map.
Edward Hopper died at the age of 84, in the very studio where he created his most iconic works … works providing viewers with a window into the artist’s world, and perhaps their own.
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Story produced by Sara Kugel. Editor: George Pozderec.