“Edward Hopper’s New York”: a soulful homage to the city’s vibrant atmosphere…

Monday November 14th 2022/ Whitney Museum of American Art /”Edward Hopper’s New York”/Through March 5th, 2023. Organized by Kim Conaty, Steven and Ann Ames Curators of Drawings and prints with Melinda Lang Senior Curatorial Assistant.

Welcome back friends!


And welcome, this week, to an exciting, awe-inspiring, meditative early/mid 20th century art exhibit, celebrating Hopper’s unique and famed depiction, of wonderfully unique elements of New York’s architecture, and of its either, quiet or buzzing city life, inside and outside, and sometimes even, its fun surroundings.


“Early Sunday morning” (1930) by Hopper (1882-1967)

Featuring from Hopper’s oeuvre, over 3000 New York centric art pieces (including paintings, etchings, drawings, illustrations, prints, commercial art, and even beautiful handwritten letters), spanning over a few decades from 1920 to 1960’s, this Whitney exhibit displays well, Hopper’s attachment to a variety of urban elements, which typify New York City.


And I will share viewpoints, on just a handful, of the work displayed: a few drawings/etchings and illustrations, and 12 paintings.


First, of course, let’s start with this iconic, “Early Sunday morning” Hopper work, which captures perfectly, a few elements from NYC’s unique quiet charm: from the incredible, joyful, optimistic, and uplifting, striking, early morning light, sweeping the picture from the East, as the sun is rising, to the gorgeous residential crimson bricks, whose windows, stand out particularly well, for some of the windows, thanks to sunny yellow blinds, all of which, contrasts beautifully with the commercial building, on the left side of the painting below (and what magnificent complementary dark forest green color to these red bricks, and whimsical, battered by the rain, pale blue curtains, dressing up the green building), and as well, what wonderfully contrasting horizontal planes, to the solitary, yet colorful, almost candy cane-like, striped vertical pole, and to the beauty of the green lit, cast iron fire hydrant, whose unusual, vertical, “stomp like” shape, is equally striking, standing alone on the sidewalk, on the left foreground of the picture: all of these “elements” seize with eloquence, New York’s atmospheric soul. And finally, how meditative for us, to immerse ourselves, in some of the rare, yet real, moments of quietness, also found in NYC, on an early weekend morning, when the city sleeps for a while.


I just love it!

So what to know about Edward Hopper, as an artist, before I share a few other works?

Edward Hopper (1882-1967) was a true New Yorker at heart, who adored this city. He spent all of his adult life, in this gorgeous city. Hopper moved to New York early on, from close by Nyac, at the turn of the century, and lived there for over 60 decades, with another fellow art student, he eventually married, the actor, painter, muse, and model, to many of his paintings, Josephine (called Jo) Nivison Hopper.


“Room in Brooklyn” (1932) by Hopper (1882-1967)

And here, what a quiet, tranquil view, of a New Yorker at home, relaxing, admiring from her window, her neighborhood’s red buildings’ ever evolving, buzzing city “life”, underneath beautifully sun lit chimney tops, unless, she is watching an equally animated or quiet street scene.


Let’s get back to Hopper’s career: he studied first, illustration, and later on, art.


Interestingly, one of his influential art teachers, Robert Henri, a key member of the Ashcan school (an American urban realistic movement), encouraged his students to paint the “everyday conditions” of their own world, in a realistic manner: a suggestion which clearly, resonated deeply with Hopper.


But, before admiring a few more of Hopper’s paintings, let’s take a look first, at two examples of Hopper’s commercial illustrations. The first one, is from 1918, is for an ad for Wells Fargo Messenger, an American multinational financial services company, who helped with financial and transportation needs, during World War I.


And this 1918 illustration below, featuring a “line”/ “queue” of people awaiting their turn, to get an “order”, a ticket, etc… out, is typical of Hopper’s realistic mannerism.

What a wonderfully expressive work as well, despite its simple topic.

Also, interestingly, Hopper travelled to Europe three times, before World War 1, between 1906 and 1910, and stayed mostly in France, and of course, met various artists there. Yet, Hopper was relatively untouched by the “impressionism” style (“plein air”, loose brushstrokes), although his palette became noticeably lighter.


To support himself, before being recognized as an important painter, by the late 1920’s-early 30’s, Hopper devoted most of his time, to advertising art, and illustrative etchings.

Let’s admire another of his poetic and illustrative commercial works, from 1925, which features a delightful ad for Mohonk Mountain House, a Victorian castle resort, nestled in the stunning Hudson Valley, 90 miles north of New York City, surrounded by gorgeous forests, allowing for wonderful, fun, mountainy hikes to enjoy with friends and family, which was popular then with many New Yorkers, and still is today.


And here, I enjoy how Hopper has perfectly seized, the vertiginous Hudson valley views, one can admire from the top of some of the wonderfully entertaining nearby hikes, close to the Mohonk resort, after climbing through awesomely beautiful and naturally formed huge boulders.


And let’s admire now, Hopper’s true gift for etching, and here, let’s drool over this 1921, awesome etching, entitled “Night shadows”, which shows also, that Hooper worked day and night at his craft, as the long shadow emanating from a lamp post, suggests a night time scene, and we can clearly observe Hopper’s dexterity at creating with very little “elements”, wonderfully emotional thrilling suspense, and a sense of dark foreboding unease.


And one can easily imagine, how this etching and a few of these Hopper etchings displayed below, influenced, some cinematographers, in the “film noir” period (1940-50s), marked by a mood of pessimism, fatalism, and menace, found in thriller or detective films, from some of the great Hollywood directors, such as Orson Welles, Fritz Lang, or Billy Wilder.


I also like a few indoor drawings from Hopper: in particular this (around 1924) drawing, of Hopper’s hat on his etching press.

And here, I particularly enjoy the “sturdy” and complex etching press depicted, which feels visually, almost related to a railroad mechanism, and yet is used in an unconventional way, to also hold Hopper’s own city hat, symbolizing perhaps as well, that head and hands work together when creating art.


And how about this 1925-30 ink study, of a fireplace and a chair?

Just gorgeous, and what incredible depth, despite the deceivingly simple drawing. And I love also, what it suggests, of the decorating style of the living rooms, in the late 1920s.


And finally, let’s applaud this iconic 1941 or 1942 study for “Nighthawks”, and my very favorite work by Hopper (I wish the actual painting had been seen, but that’s ok), which captures so well, late “diner” evenings, their unique “film noir” atmosphere in New York City: calm, and yet, welcoming for all, whether solitary, or more inclined to communicate.


But let’s get back to Hopper’s earlier painting career: after 1924, Hopper then began to do watercolors as well as oil paintings, and continued to paint a vast amount of “urban life elements”.


Let’s look at a few major themes or topics, which held great inspiration for Hopper, and were exhibited in this wonderful show:

1)New York City bridges were incredibly fascinating to him. I will just show a few.

First, let’s admire an oil, early in Hopper’s career, depicting the atmospheric Queensborough bridge.

Queensborough bridge (1913) by Hopper (1882-1967)

And I just love the majestic feel of this Queensborough bridge seen through the mist.

An aristocratic impression, probably also, linked to the name of the borough (and later bridge), allegedly named after, Queen Catherine of Braganza (1638-1705), wife of King Charles II of England (1630-1685).


Let’s praise next, another Hopper work, from a few years later in the 1930’s, an incredibly realistic study for “Macomb’s Dam Bridge”.

What a great depiction of the sturdy steel over the quiet water.

Here is now, an oil painting by Hopper, of the same “Macomb’s Dam Bridge”, with a slightly different perspective.

“Macomb’s Dam Bridge” (1935) by Hopper (1882-1967)

And suddenly, the city behind the bridge, and the sky’s poetic clouds, come alive as well.


2)Roof tops were another strong theme for Hopper:

“My Roof” (1928) by Hopper (1882-1967)

And in this “populated” watercolor, these chimney tops and sun roofs, all have great personality, and could be found in many New York outdoor/roof spaces.


3)NYC water tanks were also an appealing theme for Hopper: in the late 19th century, tanks were placed on rooftops, because the local water pressure was too weak, to raise water to upper levels.


When construction started to grow taller, the city required that buildings with six or more stories, be equipped with a rooftop tank with a pump.


“Roofs, Washington Square” (1926) by Hopper (1882-1967)

And this poetic water tank view, is still, a welcome site to many New Yorkers today, as there are still, up to 17,000 water tanks scattered throughout NYC.


4) “Windows” were also a truly important theme to Hopper, as they allow to peak briefly into, real, simple, everyday urban domestic or office life, and many of these mundane scenes, were a huge source of inspiration to Hopper.

“Night windows” (1928) by Hopper (1882-1967)

And here, it is a slightly voyeuristic snapshot, of a “stolen” instant, from this young woman’s life, as she is either dressing up or undressing, which many train riders in Manhattan, would have been eventually able to glimpse at, when riding the aerial and elevated,”El” trains, when people did not draw their curtains or blinds.

Oh boy.

5) Restaurants were also, a great inspiring topic to Hopper, as he would eat out of his home, with his wife Jo, most of the time.

“New York restaurant” (1922) by Hopper (1882-1967)

And here, I love in this glamorous and bustling restaurant, the sense of lunch time’s energetic “busyness”, despite the elegance of the restaurant, lunch can’t last long, as afternoon work calls, and the staff seems eager to keep things moving. And it also seems to me, that is also lunch, because of the outside light reflecting on the man’s face.


So vibrant and alive to me.

5) And even seemingly quiet office/ domestic scenes seen through windows, at street levels, or at more elevated, aerial train levels, also seemed to truly inspire Hopper.

“Room in New York” (1932) by Hopper (1882-1967)

And here, the quiet and comfortable sharing of the space, even though both characters are lost in their own worlds, brings out to me, the wonderful peace, intimacy, and tranquility, that this couple seems to easily share, as the complementary colors (green and red), also suggest to me.


6)The presence of nature, or of a park, or even Central park, and its own trees (and sometimes boulders) at dusk, close to residential areas, seemed also to be a great inspiring theme to Hopper’s homage to NYC.

“House at dusk” (1935) by Hopper (1882-1967)

And again, the ordinary lives of New Yorkers, in the comfort of their home, guarded by the epic forest range behind, as the sun sets, says a lot about Hopper’s love of New York wonderful green parks, which are never very far away, and accompany from dawn to dusk, every New Yorker.


7)And finally, the Performing Arts theaters, of course, and in particular, their wonderful rich and warm architecture, lights, and life inside, were also a great source of inspiration to Hopper, as he and his wife Jo, were avid theater goers.

Wow and yay!

“The Sheridan theatre” (1937) by Hopper (1882-1967)

And here, I love that it is seemingly, the relaxing moment of intermission, that is depicted, including theater goers and an usher, as intermission could have just started.


And in this example, it is another generic looking “movie” theater that is illustrated.

“New York movie” (1939) by Hopper (1882-1967)

And here, Hopper’s wife, Jo, posed as an usher, and as one of the movie goers, and again, I can’t help but think of “film noir” movies, and of actors I associate them with (for example, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall), as I admire this beautiful work.


Of course, I was hoping to be able to praise 4 other iconic Hopper paintings which I adore, but 3 out of the 4, do not telegraph New York City, as clearly, and as for the last one, at least, there were a few great studies displayed, in this beautiful “Hopper” show.


Let’s admire the first of the iconic paintings I wish I had seen.

“The House by the railroad” (1925) by Hopper (1882-1967)

This is one of the first museum owned Hopper works (It was acquired by MoMA in 1930).

The beauty of the architecture of this house, and its strange looking light, has always struck me, and I have always imagined (and I know it is probably not the case), that this painting could have been seen also, and have been an inspiration, to another iconic American illustrator, Charles Addams (1912-1988), author of a satirical series of cartoons (and later adapted in television, film, video games, musical), originally published in the New Yorker, over a 50 year period, from its inception in 1938, about a fictional iconic family, “The Addams family”.


“The Addams family” was pure invention of course, yet a satirical inversion, of the ideal 20th century American family, depicting an odd, wealthy, aristocratic clan, who adore each other, yet delight in the macabre, and are unaware or unconcerned, that other people find them bizarre or frightening.

So fun to imagine that Hopper might have influenced Addams.


“Railroad sunset” (1929) by Hopper (1882-1967)

This is the second Hopper panting I wish I had seen, and another favorite of mine, because of the exceptionally beautiful sunset depicted.


“Gas” (1940) by Hopper (1882-1967)

This is the third Hopper panting I wish I had seen, and another favorite of mine, because of its exceptional light, and the contrast between a darkening forest, as the evening progresses, and the sun sets, and a lit from the inside, gas station. And Hopper’s command of “lighting” seems to increase with experience.


“Nighthawks” (1942) by Hopper (1882-1967)

And this is the fourth and final Hopper panting I wish I had seen, and my most favorite, for its epic and strong “film noir” atmosphere.


So, to sum up my feelings, about this wonderful “Hopper” exhibit, seen with great delight, last Monday, at the Whitney museum, in great company: despite not seeing a few of my favorite paintings by Hopper, what an interesting deep dive into Hopper’s unique talent, in various mediums, and in his infinite fascination with New York, the metropolis, and surroundings, its bustling energy, inside and on the streets, over a few decades, a fascination many still share today, as New York’s charm, fortunately, endures.



And yay! yay! yay!

Just terrific!

And not to be missed!

Until next time friends, in 2 weeks after our Thanksgiving break!







Eternal butterflies 😊