“Whom did I meet? Nobody,” Edward Hopper said speaking of his time in Paris. “I’d heard of Gertrude Stein, but I don’t remember having heard of Picasso at all. I used to go to the cafés at night and sit and watch. I went to the theatre a little. Paris had no great or immediate impact on me.”
Hopper was quintessentially American. While he was made his home in Greenwich Village, he is not fully an urban painter when compared to say John Sloan. While Hopper’s paintings can depict the loneliness and isolation of the city, the mood is conveyed equally in his works in rural settings. John Sloan conveys urbanity and its ills. Hopper conveys personal isolation. While that condition was primarily associated with a big city in Hoppers time, today we may know it best as a condition of the suburbs.
Hopper lived and worked in New York, but for a New Yorker has an unusual ability to connect with Middle America. Of course this is because Hopper ventured out of New York for subject matter, but brought the New York sentiments with him. Consider A Pennsylvania Coal Town, 1947 or Cape Cod Afternoon, 1936.
Hopper has remained particularly relevant since his death in 1967. His paintings define the breadth of America as much as any painter I can think of. They convey both modernity and nostalgia and, because they relate a particular mood, remain timeless.
Fraenkel Gallery in San Francisco is just wrapping up an exhibition on Hopper, based on his influence on the medium of photography. Chicago writer Kevin Grandfield is currently on a journey to visit museums across the U.S. where Hopper’s work is held and find out whether Americans are as isolated as portrayed by Hopper. Visit Grandfield’s blog, Hunting Nighthawks.