- Edward Hopper
- Oregon Coast
- signed Edward Hopper (lower right)
- watercolour on paper
Steven G. Oifer (purchased at the above sale)
Corporate Collection (sold: Christie's, New York, 5th December 2002, lot 206)
Purchased at the above sale by the late owner
Vienna, Albertina Museum, Goya bis Picasso. Meisterwerke der Sammlung Jan Krugier und Marie-Anne Krugier-Poniatowski, 2005, no. 52, illustrated in color in the catalogue
Munich, Hypo-Kulturstiftung, Das Ewige Auge - Von Rembrandt bis Picasso. Meisterwerke aus der Sammlung Jan Krugier und Marie-Anne Krugier-Poniatowski, 2007, no. 201, illustrated in color in the catalogue
Lloyd Goodrich, Edward Hopper, New York, 1971, illustrated p. 250
Gail Levin, Edward Hopper: A Catalogue Raisonné, New York, 1995, vol. II, no. W-334, illustrated in colour p. 303
Gail Levin, Edward Hopper: An Intimate Biography, New York, 1995, mentioned p. 339
Virginia Mecklenburg, Edward Hopper: The Watercolors, New York & London, 1999, mentioned p. 161
In May 1941, Hopper and his wife Jo (fig. 1) drove west, their first long car trip in over a decade. Trips on the road were an important source of creative inspiration for the artist. With Jo at the wheel and Hopper in the backseat, the car became the couple’s travelling studio, during which watercolour served as his preferred medium (fig. 2). After driving up the coast of California, which the artist found generally uninspiring, the Hoppers traveled north to Oregon where they explored the coves and rolling dunes of the coast. It was here that Hopper executed the present work, one of only three watercolours he painted during this western sojourn (fig. 3). In Oregon Coast Hopper depicts a large sea cliff rising above a sandy beach, including only portions of the sea and sky. Allowing the massive rock formation to dominate the scene, its craggy surface becomes a forum through which Hopper observes the immediate and varied effects of light and shadow, much in the same manner as his Impressionist predecessors, such as Monet and Degas (fig. 4).
Hopper began to paint with watercolour as early as 1923 during a summer spent in Gloucester, Massachusetts, and it was this series of works that brought him his first real commercial success. In his first one-man exhibition at Frank K. M. Rehn Gallery in 1924, all eleven of Hopper’s Gloucester watercolours sold, launching his career and allowing him to stop the illustration work he so disliked. As his engagement with the medium continued to deepen throughout the 1920s, light in all its varying degrees became a fundamental component of his work. ‘Hopper used watercolour with confidence’, writes Gail Levin of his process, ‘improvising as he went along. He would apply the pigments with only a faint pencil sketch outlining the structures. What interested him was not the creation of textures or the manipulation of the medium, but the transcription of light. Light was the language through which Hopper expressed the forms and views before him. His watercolours were simply recordings of his observations, painted almost entirely out-of-doors, directly before his subject matter’ (G. Levin, Edward Hopper: A Catalogue Raisonné, New York, 1955, vol. I, pp. 65-66).
In contrast with his oil paintings, which typically required a longer period of planning and execution in a studio, the mobility of watercolour allowed Hopper to paint his chosen subject on the spot. The translucency of the watercolour medium, combined with the spontaneity of execution, proved to be ideally suited to capturing the luminosity that Hopper sought, as is demonstrated in Oregon Coast. In the present work, Hopper captures the rich effects of the brilliant coastal sunlight. As the sun-bleached grass shimmers in the salt air, colourful shadows cascade along the rock’s surface below, creating a painterly sense of texture throughout the composition. Lacking figures entirely, Oregon Coast successfully conveys the intangible sense of melancholy and solitude that emanates from the artist’s most iconic images.