For the first time in nearly three decades, the Edward Hopper House Art Center, in Hopper’s childhood home here, has mounted an exhibition featuring the work of its former resident.
“Edward Hopper, Prelude: The Nyack Years” presents 18 paintings and drawings, all but one created while Hopper lived in the house, from 1882, the year of his birth, until 1910, when he moved to Greenwich Village — and all chosen as evidence that the singular vision permeating Hopper’s development and the themes dominating his masterworks took root while he lived in Nyack.
So much is left unspoken in the paintings of Edward Hopper: in the ache of barren expanses, behind the curtains of houses perhaps not quite vacant, and in the tension transmitted by his characters, who, even with others, were almost always alone.
"Hopper had no small talk," Lloyd Goodrich, a former director of the Whitney Museum of Art, wrote in a 1970 monograph. "He was famous for his monumental silences; but like the spaces in his pictures, they were not empty."
Automat—a well-known Hopper painting that depicts a solitary female nursing a mug of coffee in an empty cafeteria—uses clear visual language to confront one of the most persistent themes found throughout modern art movements: solipsistic isolation. Here again he evokes expressionistic abstraction and discoloration to heighten the ambiance of loneliness and abandon that his subject suffers, and the effect is snaring and poignant.
Hopper's approach to modern art production is unique in that it derives meaning almost exclusively from content. While the most celebrated American artists of his day answered this conflict through the unified, wholly visual dynamics of Abstract Expressionism, Hopper chose instead to realign the practices of traditional representational painting within the context of American post-war culture.
Hopper's artistic pedigree straddles the Ashcan School of New York scene painters and other early moderns with one leg and nationalistic Americana artists like Norman Rockwell and Thomas Hart Benton with the other.
Edward Hopper (1882–1967), creator of art that novelist John Updike described as "calm, silent, stoic, luminous, and classic," is one of the most enduring and popular American painters of the 20th century. A pivotal artist who was intensely private, Hopper made solitude and introspection important themes in his paintings, which have been celebrated as a part of the very grain and texture of the American experience.
One of the country's most honored artists, Hopper was internationally acclaimed in his lifetime and was elected to both the National Institute of Arts and Letters (1945) and the American Academy of Arts and Letters (1955).
He poetically painted the isolation and detachment of modern life; Nighthawks (1942) is arguably his best-known composition.
Edward Hopper's classic works captured the realities of urban and rural American life with a poignancy and beauty that have placed them among the most enduring and popular images of the 20th century.