No amount of skillful invention can replace the essential element of imagination.

Edward Hopper

New York Movie 1939

Edward Hopper was born on July 22, 1882, to a prosperous dry-goodsmerchant in Nyack, New York, a small town on the Hudson about twenty-five miles north of New York City. He enrolled in the Correspondence School of Illustrating in New York in 1900; he transferred to the New York School of Art the next year, and it was here that he studied with legendary teachers William Merritt Chase, Robert Henri, and Kenneth Hayes Miller.

Hopper visited Europe three times between 1906 and 1910, and while he was a life-long Francophile, he never went abroad again. In 1913 he moved to Greenwich Village, renting the top floor apartment at 3 Washington Square North. This would be his home for the rest of his life.

Until the age of 40, Hopper’s career was marked by disappointment. He only sold one painting, and was rarely able to get into gallery shows. He supported himself through commercial illustration—which he loathed—and printmaking, which won him critical recognition.

Hopper’s breakthrough came in 1923 when the Brooklyn Museum bought his watercolor The Mansard Roof for $100. The following year he married fellow painter Josephine Nivison and began showing his work with prominent New York art dealer Frank Rehn. Solo shows made Hopper’s reputation: his oils and watercolors sold well, and critics applauded his quiet realism, use of light, and above all, his ability to reveal beauty in the most mundane subjects.

In 1933, the Museum of Modern Art gave Hopper his first retrospective exhibition. The exhibition included many of his signature subjects: Victorian houses, New York restaurants, automats, drugstores, and bridges, as well as views into quiet, middle-class apartments. Also in the exhibition were paintings from his summer travels to Gloucester, Maine and after 1930, from Truro on Cape Cod. In 1934, he and his wife Jo built a house in Truro where they spent almost every summer.

Although Hopper continued to travel, his best-known works came from his solitary wanderings in New York City. These include Early Sunday Morning, which shows Greenwich Village shop fronts before people filled the streets, and Nighthawks, an image of a diner late at night.

Hopper died at the age 84, and during his long career saw the rise of many different avant-garde moments, including Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism, and Pop Art. Despite the popularity of these styles, he remained esteemed by critics and the public. In 1950, the Whitney Museum gave him a major retrospective and he was featured on the cover of Time magazine in 1956. In 1967, the year of his death, he represented the United States in the prestigious Sao Paolo Biennal.

In 1971, his wife bequeathed more than 3,000 of his works to the Whitney Museum, which has since staged many important and critically acclaimed exhibitions of his work. While reviewing of these exhibitions, novelist John Updike referred to Hopper’s work as “calm, silent, stoic, luminous, classic,” a description that remains true today.

http://www.mfa.org/hopper/artist.html

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