Cape Cod Morning (1950) by American realist painter Edward Hopper is a snapshot of a beautiful morning in this popular New England destination.
Although Cape Cod is famous for its lighthouses, seaside villages and ocean views, this oil painting shows yet another setting in this popular spot. In 1930, Hopper and his wife, Josephine Nivison, also an artist, rented a cottage in Cape Cod. Falling in love with the area's quaint and pleasing nature, the couple would return every summer for the rest of their lives. They eventually built a house here in 1934, which could easily be the one depicted in this painting with Nivison seen in the window. This house and the landscapes around Cape Cod served as inspiration for Hopper in a number of his paintings. Compared to the urban setting in New York, their main residence location, Cape Cod and their cottage would have offered a breath of fresh air both figuratively and literally.
Cape Cod Morning was painted later in Hopper's life and career. Although all his works show Hopper's talent and ability to capture everyday life, this particular painting is authentic due to all the details. From the shadows on the edges of the house and below the woman's chin, to the way the light hits the tops of the trees and the woman's face, one can almost feel the heat of the sun as it rises in the morning. Hopper's fascination with featuring people in his paintings is revealed. Instead of showing the actual sunrise, which is a marvel, he shows the human subject in reaction to it. The painting does still have a hint of Hopper's interest in architecture as well because it features a house, which shares the canvas equally with the forest and field scene. Perhaps it reflects how Hopper's life was now split between a city life and a cottage life. Just like Hopper and his wife undoubtedly had in real life, a balance is struck in this painting.
There was also Cape Cod Evening from a decade earlier, and it is interesting to compare the two to see how Hopper's style altered over that period. His use of content remained fairly consistent throughout, and we also can see a repetition in how he depicts certain elements across different paintings. For example, the way in which he captured the trees, sky and undergrowth within Cape Cod Morning will remind many of another of his masterpieces - Gas. The use highly similar palettes and but were actually also a decade apart in creation. Hopper used bright orange and red tones from the long grasses which covered most of the ground around the series of trees in order to add some unique tones besides the standard greens and blues that were delivered by the trees and the sky above. He also incorporates a small amount of light in from the right hand side which brings in a lighter green on the top right of some of the trees nearest us.
Within this particular composition we find a woman peering out of a bay window within a rural setting. The lighting is carefully handled by the artist, with a shadow coming across this side of the window, as it juts out from the rest of the building. White wooden panels cover the entire structure, allowing a precise uniformity to be used by the artist. Each panel has a small shadow cast on the one below, creating a striped effect that brings interest to otherwise plain parts of the painting. The female looking out has auburn hair, smartly styled, and wears a pretty pink dress. The room in which she stands looks tidy, with a small table lamp and perhaps a desk or chair on which she leans. There are tones of green decoration within the room which then match perfectly with the surrounding trees. The overall artwork feels entirely modern, with a control on detail and colour, which almost approaches an abstract form whilst still delivering recognisable details.
This artwork takes a prominent position within the Smithsonian American Art Museum and perfectly sums up the content and style of the American Realism movement, of which Edward Hopper was the most significant contributor. The institution lists this piece as having been a gift of the Sara Roby Foundation, and generous donations such as this are actually fairly common because many collectors wish to allow as many people to see their own collections as possible. This has helped several significant art galleries within the US to build up formidable displays of art which can now compete with anywhere in the world, with a particular focus on contemporary art in most cases. The Smithsonian also own several etchings and drawings from the artist's career plus also original oil paintings such as People in the Sun, White River at Sharon, Ryder's House and House in Italian Quarter. Additionally, many other notable American artists can also be discovered here including famous artworks such as Manhattan and Yellow Calla by Georgia O'Keeffe, Gates of the Yosemite and Among the Sierra Nevada, California by Albert Bierstadt, The Caress by Mary Cassatt and Fishing Boats at Gloucester by John Henry Twachtman.
Tom Gurney in an art history expert. He received a BSc (Hons) degree from Salford University, UK, and has also studied famous artists and art movements for over 20 years. Tom has also published a number of books related to art history and continues to contribute to a number of different art websites. You can read more on Tom Gurney here.