Lot 32
  • 32

Edward Hopper

Estimate
250,000 - 350,000 GBP
Sold
542,500 GBP
bidding is closed

Description

  • Edward Hopper
  • Oregon Coast
  • signed Edward Hopper (lower right)
  • watercolour on paper

Provenance

Private Collection, U.S.A. (sold: Sotheby's, New York, 2nd December 1993, lot 140)

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

Exhibited

New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Annual Exhibition of Contemporary American Art, 1942-43

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

 

Literature

Artist's Record Book, vol. II, p. 57, s.v., 1941

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

Catalogue Note

Edward Hopper derived much of his imagery from the world around him and maintained a strong commitment to a realist aesthetic throughout his career. He constantly searched for fresh and compelling imagery, a quest that drove him to deeply explore a wide range of American communities in urban, rural and suburban locales. ‘To me the most important thing is the sense of going on’, he once articulated of his peripatetic impulse. ‘You know how beautiful things are when you’re traveling’. Hopper purchased his first automobile in 1927, augmenting his ability to escape the confines of his Manhattan home to discover new subject matter. Hopper’s dedication to depicting commonplace subject matter, which he often infused with a subtle mood of mystery or melancholy, resonated with viewers and critics alike. Indeed, as displayed in works like Oregon Coast, Hopper continues to offer his contemporary audience a novel interpretation of the familiar American scene.

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.

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