Edward Hopper: Artist Portrait

Edward Hopper

Born 1882. Died 1967.

Works by Edward Hopper at Sotheby's

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Edward Hopper Biography

Dealing with themes of isolation and solitude, but within contexts generally recognized as sites of interaction or sociability, the work of Edward Hopper has come to be iconic within American visual lexicon as well as lent inspiration to countless younger generations of artists and movements. Hopper was born in 1882 in Nyack, New York, less than an hour north of Manhattan. Following high school, he began studying art in New York City, first briefly at the Correspondence School of Illustrating before spending nearly six years taking classes at the New York School of Art, where he was taught both by William Merritt Chase, an Impressionist painter, and Robert Henri, a painter and member of the Ashcan School.

Following his training, Hopper first garnered some work as an illustrator before undertaking three separate trips to Europe between 1906 and 1910; although he visited various locales across the continent, he frequented Paris on each occasion. Despite the numerous avant-garde styles proliferating in the city of light at the time, he was largely indifferent to leading movements such as Cubism and Fauvism. Nevertheless, he found inspiration from the French Modernists—namely Edgar Degas and Édouard Manet—whose modern life subject matter and stylistic approaches resonated deeply with the artist.

After settling in Greenwich Village in the 1910’s, Hopper’s career initially floundered. Although he showed in numerous group exhibitions in the city, and was included in the seminal 1913 Armory Show, it was not until 1920 that he was subject of a solo exhibition at the Whitney Studio Club (the progenitor of the Whitney Museum of American Art). Unfortunately this exhibition resulted in zero sales, but, a few years later, he had a second solo show at Frank K. M. Rehn Galleries, which sold out. This marked a turning point for Hopper, as his career subsequently gained momentum. Additionally, his personal life took a happy turn when he married fellow artist Josephine Verstille Nivison in 1923; Jo, as Hopper called her, would be the model for nearly all of his subsequent female figuration, and she also acted as a registrar of sorts for his career.

By the 1930’s, Hopper had developed his now iconic mature style, which was recognized by a career retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1933. His work reflected a deep psychological interrogation of modern life, and, more specifically, concepts of alienation and loneliness. Hopper masterfully created visual tension by illustrating common settings, such as a diner in his now iconic Nighthawks (1942), but portrayed in an austere, uncanny manner—casual scenes are executed almost too formulaically, belaying their inner contrivance, which is seemingly at odds with their comfortably recognizable subjects. Hopper died in May of 1967, and when Jo died less than a year later, his entire estate was gifted to the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Hopper was not a prolific artist, only averaging about two paintings a year. Notwithstanding, his work has come to be housed in a number of prestigious institutional collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; and the Art Institute of Chicago.

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