From 12 June to 16 September 2012 the American artist Edward Hopper is in Madrid, in a wonderful exhibition in the Museum Thyssen-Bornemisza. The project has been a collaboration with the Réunion des Musées Nationaux de France.
The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum has the most important collection of Hopper’s works outside U.S. and Paris was a point of reference for the artist in the early 20th century.
Two important curators: Tomàs Llorens (Honorary Director of the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza) and Didier Ottinger (Associate Director of the MNAM/Centre Pompidou).
The exhibition is organised into two parts. A first part that covers the artist’s formative years from 1900 to 1924: sketches, paintings, drawings, illustrations, prints and watercolours complemented by works of artists as Winslow Homer, Robert Henri, John Sloan, Edgar Degas or Walter Sickert. A second part that covers the years 1925 onwards and that focuses on Hopper’s mature output and aims.
Yesterday, I went to the exhibition and I can assure you it’s a really important one: for the importance of the artist and for the great number of works shown.
Edward Hopper is the best-known American realist artist of the inter-war period. He was born in the small Hudson River town of Nyack, New York State, on 22 July 1882.
He first attended the New York School of Illustrating, in 1900 he went to the New York School of Art, and in 1906 he arrived at Europe: Paris, London, Amsterdam, Berlin and Brussels. The picture that seems to have impressed him most was Rembrandt’s ‘The Night Watch’ (in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam). Hopper was able to repeat his trip to Europe in 1909 and 1910. On the second occasion he visited Spain as well as France. Best result: ‘Soir Bleu’ about the carnival in Paris, one of the largest pictures he ever painted. Anyway, the painting was a failure and he started to work on the American subjects.
In 1913, Edward Hopper made his first sale – a picture exhibited at the Armory Show in New York. In 1920 he had his first solo exhibition, at the Whitney Studio Club, but on this occasion none of his paintings was sold. He was already thirty-seven and beginning to doubt if he would achieve any success as an artist. Then, he started to make prints and watercolors. In 1923, Hopper married Jo Nivison, also artist, and they started a complex relationship full of rivalries and fights.
In 1924, his second solo show at the Rehn Gallery in New York was a success and the following year, he painted what is now generally acknowledged to be his first fully mature picture, ‘The House by the Railroad’.
Hopper started to be famous and in 1929, he was included in the Museum of Modern Art’s second exhibition, Paintings by Nineteen Living Americans. In 1930, the Whitney Museum bought Hopper’s ‘Early Sunday Morning’, its most expensive purchase to that time.
Now, Hopper became a pictorial poet who recorded the vastness of America (also Mexico): loneliness, lighthouses, hotels, deserted streets at night. He was realist but also symbolist and some of his paintings, such as his celebrated ‘Gas’, have elements which anticipate Pop Art.
However, the rise of Abstract art left him isolated artistically. He died in 1967. The true importance of his art has only been claimed after his death.