Life and Times
Edward Hopper grew up in the small town of Nyack, New York state, on the banks of the Hudson river. From an early age he developed an interest in drawing and painting. His parents, keen that Edward could turn his love of art into a living, suggested he looked at commercial art as a career option.
So after finishing high school, Hopper enrolled on a course in commercial art at the New York School of Illustrating. Then he transferred to the New York School of Art, where he met the charismatic and influential figure of Robert Henri, a prominent figure in the Ashcan School of painters. Hopper made time away from his commercial art studies to listen and learn from Henri. (Incidentally Henri also taught George Bellows).
At the age of 24, Hopper traveled to Paris to find out for himself about the new wave of French Impressionist painters. Hopper was completely seduced by the glamour and excitement of the Parisian art scene. Over the next 3 years Hopper made two more trips to Europe’s art hothouse.
After the third trip to Europe Hopper finally settled down in New York, hiring a small apartment in Greenwich Village. He managed to find a job at a print-making firm, illustrating and drawing. In the evenings Hopper would concentrate on his own art. In 1913, Hopper exhibited at the fabled Armory show, selling just 1 painting, titled Sailing. By now his painting style was a slightly chaotic mix of Ashcan and Impressionism. He himself must have been frustrated with the results, because he turned his attention to perfecting his monochrome etches. In 1920 a show of his paintings (many originating from his Paris years) at the Whitney Studio Club was well received.
In 1923 Hopper, on a visit to Gloucester, met Josephine Nivison, a fellow artist. The two fell in love, and married in 1924. Jo has become a familiar face – she became the model for all the women in Hopper’s paintings. The following year Hopper persuaded the Rehn gallery to feature a series of his water-colors. This time the show was a great success, and all the paintings sold. Hopper was finally able to quit his job at the print-makers. He bought a car, and he and Jo traveled around the easter states, visiting friends and painting a plethora of interesting subjects. Hopper’s paintings were much sought-after – his fresh style and familiar choice of subject struck a chord with the art-buying world.
In the 1950s and 60s, Hopper’s star waned as the new movement of Abstract Expressionism (typified by artists such as Jackson Pollock) took center stage in the New York art world. Hopper died in 1967. Jo Nivison bequeathed a large number of his works to the Whitney Museum of American Art.