Lot 2
  • 2

Edward Hopper

1,000,000 - 1,500,000 USD
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  • Edward Hopper
  • Coast Guard Cove
  • signed and inscribed Two Lights, Me
  • watercolor on paper
  • 14 by 20 in.
  • 35.6 by 50.8 cm.
  • Executed in 1929.


Frank K.M. Rehn Gallery, New York (1929)
Mr. and Mrs. George H. Davis, New York (1931)
Frank K.M. Rehn Gallery, New York
Kennedy Galleries, New York (1975)
Dr. and Mrs. Howard A. Ted Bailey, Jr., Little Rock, Arkansas
Kennedy Galleries, New York
Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon (acquired from the above in 1983)


New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Edward Hopper: Retrospective Exhibition, November - December 1933, cat. no. 45
Chicago, Arts Club of Chicago, Exhibition of Paintings by Edward Hopper, January 1934, cat. no. 31
New York, Kennedy Galleries, Fine American Paintings, 18th, 19th and 20th Centuries, December 1975 - January 1976, cat. no. 18
New York, Kennedy Galleries, The American Tradition of Realism Part II: Paintings and Sculpture of the Twentieth Century, April - May 1983, cat. no. 41, illustrated in color


Artist’s Record Book, I, p. 70
Gail Levin, Edward Hopper: A Catalogue Raisonné, New York, 1995, vol II, cat. no. W-233, p. 202, illustrated in color


This work is in very good condition. The paper is hinged at the edges and there are four sections of adhesive residue from a previous framing treatment on the reverse. The paper has oxidized slightly, most noticeably in the sky, and there is slight mat burn visible at the edges. This work has recently been reviewed by Alvarez Fine Art Services, who suggested that it might be possible to minimize the appearance of the oxidation and mat burn. To see the full report please contact the American Art department at (212) 606-7280.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

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 subjects, a quest that drove him to deeply explore a wide range of American communities in urban, rural and suburban locales. In 1927, Hopper purchased his first car, augmenting his ability to escape the confines of Manhattan to discover new subject matter. “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 travelling” (Gail Levin, Hopper’s Places, Berkeley, California, 1998, p. 8).

The purchase of the car directly influenced the Hoppers’ decision to visit the village of Two Lights in Cape Elizabeth, Maine during the summer of 1927. While always eager to find new inspiration, the couple was previously confined to destinations accessible only by public transportation. Now, however, they were able to reach this remote coastal town located halfway between Prout’s Neck and Portland. The scenery surrounding Two Lights was rugged and bucolic, and dominated by the presence of twin lighthouses that were used by navigators and fishermen to locate their position at sea and to place their nets (figure 1). The area presented Hopper with a wide range of both natural and manmade features he could translate into subject matter: of course the lighthouses (figure 2), but also fishing and Coast Guard boats, Victorian architecture, and the dramatic coastline. In addition to the distinctive environment, Hopper was equally captivated by the people who inhabited Two Lights—largely Coast Guard men and their families—and the demanding, isolated life they lived there.

Coast Guard Cove was executed in 1929 during the artist’s second visit to Cape Elizabeth. Hopper was keenly interested in observing the effects of light on the distinctive landscape and architectural elements he found there, and the summer sunlight at Cape Elizabeth was particularly intense. The majority of the works he completed during this summer were executed in watercolor, a medium he first began to use in 1923 and quickly adapted to. As Gail Levin writes, “Hopper used watercolor with a sense of confidence, 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 watercolors were simply recordings of his observations, painted almost entirely out-of-doors, directly before his subject matter” (Edward Hopper: The Art and the Artist, New York, 1980, p. 44).

“By the time Hopper was painting in Cape Elizabeth,” writes Janet L. Comey “he was sufficiently well known that critics began comparing him both to past masters and to other up-and-coming painters…Contemporary critics, including Lloyd Goodrich, saw Hopper as the heir to the ‘realistic, spare, almost Puritanical strain’ of American art exemplified by the work of [Winslow] Homer and Thomas Eakins. Goodrich observed that ‘in his watercolors it seems to me that [Hopper] has all the brilliancy of [John Singer] Sargent, but it is a solid brilliancy, with a force of mind rather than of hand behind it. The touch is firm, crisp, almost neat, with something in it that reminds one less of Sargent than of Winslow Homer'” (“Painting Sunlight on the Coast of Maine,” Edward Hopper, London, 2007, p. 93).

In Coast Guard Cove, Hopper depicts one of the lookout houses of Two Lights in the distance. Perched high up on one of the region’s rocky cliffs with the calm waters of a cove below,  the structure is bathed in a subtle golden light. This carefully selected perspective emphasizes the vast and wild quality of the landscape. In contrast with his oil paintings, which typically required a longer period of planning and execution in a studio, the mobility of watercolor allowed Hopper to paint his chosen subject on the spot. The translucency of the watercolor medium, combined with the spontaneity of execution, proved to be ideally suited to capturing the luminosity that Hopper sought, as is demonstrated in Coast Guard Cove. Here Hopper captures the rich effects of the brilliant coastal sunlight. As the sun-bleached grass shimmers in the salt air, colorful shadows cascade along the cliff’s surface below, creating a painterly sense of texture throughout the composition. Lacking figures entirely, Coast Guard Cove not only conveys Hopper’s intense connection with the Maine landscape but also the intangible sense of melancholy and solitude that emanates from the artist’s most iconic images.