Edward Hopper (July 22, 1882 – May 15, 1967) was an American painter and
printmaker.Edward Hopper (July 22, 1882 – May 15, 1967) was an American painter
Edward Hopper (July 22, 1882 – May 15, 1967) was an American
painter and printmaker. While most popularly known for his oil paintings, he was
equally proficient as a watercolorist and printmaker in etching.
Born in upper Nyack, New York to a prosperous dry-goods merchant, Hopper studied
illustration and painting in New York City at the New York Institute of Art and
Design. One of his teachers, artist Robert Henri, encouraged his students to use
their art to "make a stir in the world". Henri, an influence on Hopper,
motivated students to render realistic depictions of urban life. Henri's
students, many of whom developed into important artists, became known as the
Ashcan School of American art. Hopper studied under Henri for five years.
Upon completing his formal education, Hopper made three trips to Europe, each
centered in Paris, to study the emerging art scene there, but unlike many of his
contemporaries who imitated the abstract cubist experiments, the idealism and
detail of the realist painters resonated with Hopper. His early projects reflect
the realist influence with an emphasis on colour and shape. Eschewing the usual
New England subjects of seascapes or boats, Hopper was attracted to Victorian
architecture, although it was no longer in fashion. According to Boston Museum
of Fine Arts curator Carol Troyen, "He really liked the way these houses with
their turrets and towers and porches and mansard roofs and ornament cast
wonderful shadows. He always said that his favorite thing was painting sunlight
on the side of a house." 
While he worked for several years as a commercial artist, Hopper continued
painting with moderate success yet not as much as he wanted. He sold a variety
of small prints and watercolors to tourists and minor publications yet received
only a casual if warm response from curators and gallery owners.
According to Troyen, Hopper's "breakthrough work" was The Mansard Roof, painted
in 1923 during Hopper's first summer in Gloucester, MA. His former art school
classmate and later wife, Josephine Nivison Hopper, suggested he enter it in the
Brooklyn Museum annual watercolor show, along with some other paintings. The
Mansard Roof was purchased by the museum for its permanent collection, for the
sum of $100. 
In 1925 he produced House by the Railroad, a classic work that marks his
artistic maturity. The piece is the first of a series of stark urban and rural
scenes that uses sharp lines and large shapes, played upon by unusual lighting
to capture the lonely mood of his subjects. He derived his subject matter from
the common features of American life — gas stations, motels, the railroad, or an
empty street — and its inhabitants.
Hopper continued to paint in his old age, dividing his time between New York
City and Truro, Massachusetts. He died in 1967, in his studio near Washington
Square, in New York City. His wife, painter Josephine Nivison, who died 10
months later, bequeathed his work to the Whitney Museum of American Art. Other
significant paintings by Hopper are at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, The
Des Moines Art Center, and the Art Institute of Chicago.
Though Hopper's works are very accessible, he was seen, often, as extremely
alienated since he had given up commercial illustration to dedicate his
professional life to painting. 
The most well known of Hopper's paintings, Nighthawks (1942), shows customers
sitting at the counter of an all-night diner. The diner's harsh electric light
sets it apart from the dark night outside, enhancing the mood and subtle emotion
of the painting. The painting conveys the elements of confinement and isolation.
One critic, Walter Wells, sees in the picture the influence of Ernest
Hemingway's story, "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place," both picture and story
representing a "sanctuary against the ultimate night [i.e. death] in a world
without God or spiritual solace."
Hopper's rural New England scenes, such as Gas (1940), are no less meaningful.
"Gas" represents "a different, equally clean, well-lighted refuge.... ke[pt]
open for those in need as they navigate the night, traveling their own miles to
go before they sleep."  Brilliant sunlight (as an emblem of insight or
revelation), and the shadows it casts, also play symbolically powerful roles in
Hopper paintings such as "Early Sunday Morning" (1930), "Summertime" (1943),
"Seven A.M." (1948), and "Sun in an Empty Room" (1963).
In terms of subject matter, Hopper can be compared to his contemporary, Norman
Rockwell. Hopper's work exploits empty spaces, represented by a gas station
astride an empty country road and the sharp contrast between the natural light
of the sky, moderated by the lush forest, and glaring artificial light coming
from inside the gas station. Most of Hopper's paintings have a concentration on
the subtle interaction of human beings with their environment and with each
other. Like stills for a movie or tableaux in a play, Hopper positions his
characters as if they have been captured just before or just after the climax of
a scene 
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