Summertime, 1943, Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington, USA. © Bridgeman 2012.
PARIS - A few weeks ago, Sotheby’s and Quilvest Bank held a breakfast and private view at the Grand Palais’ Hopper retrospective, the first ever in Paris for the artist who once lived in the city.
On my previous visit, the gallery was packed so I did not see the paintings properly. But with the exhibition hall booked exclusively for our guests, we had all the time and freedom to contemplate Hopper’s fascinating compositions. At least I found them fascinating. Other guests engaged differently with his work.
My neighbour, a confirmed collector of modern art emphasized the oppression she felt while looking at the works. She pointed to Nighthawks (1942), saying the characters did not seem real, nor did they seem to be communicating despite the setting in a diner. Drawn to the oppressive silence of the painting, she also admired the drawing skills he had kept from his early career as an illustrator.
Ground Swell (1939), Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, USA. Courtesy of Wikipaintings.
Behind this initial coldness, I find his characters full of humanity. In that regard, the girl waiting for someone in front of a light grey-stone façade in Summertime (1943) is, to me, full of life. I can feel the heat of sun. Aspects of daily American life can be seen in his work, such as in Office at Night (1940), which depicts an attractive woman and older man working late in an office. Fashionable sports of the period are also a theme – though an unusual one. Two elegant compositions, Ground Swell (1939) and Bridle Path (1939) – the latter, which was sold at auction this year by Sotheby’s. depicts sailing and riding scenes, and appear atypical in Hopper’s entire body of work.
A century after his first stay in Paris, Edward Hopper is once again meeting crowds of Parisians and French admirers.