A Hopper Reveal

It’s interesting to see instances of a teenage Edward Hopper’s copying of other artists, the more so as it touches on the reputation he cultivated “as an artist whose innate genius allowed him to emerge on the scene without a debt to others.”

I’m not a critic or scholar, but I share their intrigue that, in his mature work, Hopper “allowed himself” to be awkward in a studied way.

Critics and scholars have always been intrigued by an awkwardness that Hopper allowed himself in many of his classic paintings…

… seas that look more painted than liquid in his famous “Ground Swell”…

… the awkward anatomy of his female nude in “Morning in a City”…

… or the stony faces of the diners in “Nighthawks.”

A third point of interest for me in this article is Hopper’s perceived affinity with illustration.

In rendering his pioneering views of everyday life in average America… Hopper chose an everyday style that brings him closer to the modest commercial illustration of his era than to the certified old masters.

Gopnik caps his treatment of the Hopper copy revelation with something I marvel at in creative art critics: propositions that soar, like poetry, above interpretation.

Now that we know that Hopper was never a painting prodigy, we can think of his later paintings as deliberately revisiting the limitations of his adolescence, and finding virtue and power there… It’s as though, to be truly in and of their time and place, and fully “American,” paintings of a city’s simple shopfronts, or of plain women in plain rooms, had to be rendered in a plain manner worthy of their subjects, or as unworthy as them.

(Blake Gopnik, “Early Works by Edward Hopper Found to Be Copies of Other Artists,” NYTimes, 9-28-20)

(c) 2020 JMN

About JMN

I live in Texas and devote much of my time to easel painting on an amateur basis. I stream a lot of music, mostly jazz, throughout the day, and watch Netflix and Prime Video for entertainment. I like to read and memorize poetry.
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