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Discover the rise of Edward Hopper to become one of the most famous painters of the 20th century in this extensive biography.
Edward Hopper (1882 - 1967) designed sombre and exceptional portraits of modern life in America. He is recognised for this Nighthawks painting, where he portrayed desolate urban scenes and the not-so-good rural landscapes. Edward's oil paintings, sketches, etchings and watercolours depicted a sense of human detachment. By restraining himself against the prevailing trend towards abstract expressionism, Hopper became America’s best realist of the 20th century.
Hopper's Childhood Life
Edward Hopper was born in a middle-class and comfortable family on July 22, 1882, in Upper Nyack, New York. Alongside Marion, his elder sister, they grew in a comfy Victorian house on a beautiful hill overlooking River Hudson. His parents were skilled and involved in the world of arts. So, the family attended concerts, cultural events and even visited museums.
As a kid, Edward drew sketched boats and political cartoons he came across in the local port. Hopper's first signed drawing is Rowboat in Rocky Cove, which he painted in 1895. Due to their practical-minded and supportive nature, Edward’s parents advised him to chase a career that would assure a stable income. Due to his love for drawing and boats, Edward Hopper opted for a career in naval architecture. Still, he was more into colour and light than engineering. In fact, he desired to draw old houses and nautical vistas alongside River Hudson.
One of his memorable and best drawing is founded on a familiar setting in Haverstraw, New York, situated a couple of miles from his childhood residence. Skewed perspective and eerie lighting give the House by the Railroad painting an incredible air of menacing. Finished in 1925, the House by the Railroad was the first painting that the Metropolitan Museum of Art acquired. The drawing later stirred the set design for Alfred Hitchcock's terrifying Psycho Movie in 1960.
Education and Influences
After graduating from Nyack public high school in 1899, his parents recommended he takes a commercial illustration course instead of fine art. Subsequently, he spent a whole year in Manhattan at the New York school of illustration before moving to the more serious New York School of Art to accomplish his childhood dream. Edward Hopper was enrolled at the New York School of Art from 1900 to 1906 and it was at this point that the young student started to be exposed to all manner of artistic influences. Hopper's spell in central New York was where his inspiration from normal, everyday life was to begin.
It is perhaps thanks to the artist's teachers in the School of Art that he was to choose the artistic style that he did. This approach to capturing individuals in rural settings would never leave his work, even when American art saw the rise of Abstract Expressionists like Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock.
While at the New York School of Art, he studied commercial art as advised by his parents. At the same time, he sharpened his skills as a professional painter. Some of his famous classmates include the skilled realists Rockwell Kent, George Bellows and Guy Pène du Bois.
His able teachers included William Merritt Chase and Kenneth Hayes Miller. The best thing about these teachers is that they used traditional realism methodology to portray everyday settings. Above all, Edward became Robert Henri's student. At the time, Robert was the leader at the Ashcan School. As a person who believed that artists need to show the harsh and extreme conditions that the poor lived in, Henri promoted a bold urban realism.
Edward finished his formal education in 1906. Customarily, art students made trips to Europe and worked part time to paint illustrations for marketing purposes, which is exactly what Edward did over the next four years. Although he visited many countries in Europe, Hopper spent most of his time in the city of Paris. During this period, there was a high rise in post impression. So, there was an increase in new trends like Cubism, Dada, Surrealism and Fauvism. Nonetheless, Edward showed no interest in new trends. As a matter of fact, he did not interact with modern artists and didn't enrol in any class. In its place, Edward painted scenic views and read French literature.
The scenic views he painted were inspired by the previous artists, such as Goya and the 19th-century impressionist Degas and Manet. His early works, such as the House with People, The Louvre in a Thunderstorm, Summer Interior and the El Station, reflects Edward's training in urban realism. The relaces brushstrokes, on the other hand, portrays a worrying moment without sentimentality and judgement. Notably, his very last trip to Europe was in 1910.
Throughout this time, he continued to make money through illustrating. In 1915, he jumped into printmaking and designed some 70 drypoints and etchings over the next ten years. Just like the drawings, which we all recognise him for, Edward's etchings exemplify a sense of melancholy and alienation.
His Late Years
Edward Hopper's Legacy
According to Eric Fischl, a famous painter, it's possible to tell how great painters are by checking how long it takes to go through their territories. Currently, artists are still in the territory opened by Edward Hopper. On the other hand, Richard Diebenkorn recalls the significance of Edward's impact on his works. According to Richard, he embraced Hopper’s work wholly. Richard denotes that Edward’s use of the atmosphere, light and shade has made a tremendous impact on his works.
Many generations of filmmakers have acquired their inspirations from his dramatic lighting, viewpoints, and general moods. Well, these filmmakers include David Lynch, Sam Mendes, Orson Welles, Robert Siodmak, Billy Wilder and Wim Wenders. In fact, Edward’s painting, the House by the Railroad (1925), inspired the production of Alfred Hitchcock's (1960) movie.