Edward Hopper (Best Of Collection)

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Hopper's Chop Suey in record-breaking $92m sale

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Edward Hopper and the Blank Canvas

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Edward Hopper painting 'Chop Suey' sells for almost $92 million

Hopper's marvelous ability to evoke the familiar continues to attract audiences, even though the era he was depicting -- mainly the s through the '40s -- is long past. What perennially attracts us to his work, no doubt, is a common desire for identification with place. In a time of mobility, we yearn for roots and stability, whether it be in hometown America or a city neighborhood. How did Hopper manage to capture this universal sense of place? Just how faithful was his rendering of the origin al building or landscape?

And how and why did he alter the image to achieve more than a mundane likeness? To answer these questions we would need to compare Hopper's paintings with the buildings, lighthouses, and landscape motifs he used as subjects. Levin is uniquely qualified for this task.

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From to , she was curator of the Edward Hopper Collection at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, where she wrote an impressive number of authoritative, thoroughly researched books and articles on Hopper, including the complete catalog of his paintings, drawings, and prints, several exhibition catalogs, and a forthcoming critical biography.

With that kind of scholarly work behind her, Levin allowed herself -- and us -- this special rewar d: an elegant book containing 24 color reproductions of Hopper's most famous paintings of old houses and other sites, juxtaposed with Levin's photographs of the same scenes, arranged for easy and detailed comparison. In the course of her research as curator of the Hopper Collection, Levin traced the artist's steps to all his favorite painting haunts, from the islands and coastal cities of Maine, to Gloucester and Cape Cod, Mass.

In each place, she searched out and photographed the very buildings and settings used by Hopper as subjects for his finished paintings, positioning herself when new shrubbery or construction did not prevent it on the exact spot where Hopper must have sto od to draw or paint. At first her photographs served as a research tool to document and verify the works in the catalogs. In the s and '30s, both Loran and Rewald combed the environs of Aix, ph otographing the actual motifs C'ezanne drew upon for his numerous paintings of Mont-Ste.

Victoire and other sites in the surrounding countryside. These published studies are a rich source of insight into the methods of landscape composition used by the great French master. In the same manner, Levin's book presents us with a built-in comparative mechanism by which to discover more precisely the how and why of Hopper's choice of subject matter and method of depiction. Examining these paintings against the photographs confirms that Hopper was indeed a realist in his accurate observation of his subjects.

Levin, however, notes the sometimes subtle changes he made.

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Clearly, verisimilitude alone was not his goal. Spatial organization, abrupt cropping of structures, alterations of scale or proportion, and unusual viewpoints are some of the compositional devices Hopper used to intensify the expressive content of a painting.

Sometimes he painted at the site, but more often especially in the latter part of his career he made detailed drawings with color notations and then executed the final painting in the studio. He didn't work from photographs, although he sometimes used a camera to record architectural details.

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  4. In a text that is refreshingly free of the scholarly apparatus of footnotes and elaborate stylistic analysis, Levin describes just how Hopper managed to lend that missing weight and living presence to the painted image. In this painting as in so many others, the time of day or night is also an important factor in conveying a mood. The old house with its dark. Occasionally he used multiple viewpoints, combining several angles of observation into one, or closing up space between buildings so as to expose more of their character.

    The dramatic contrast of the deep afternoon shadows and the glow of the declining sun as it strikes the buildings heightens the feeling of loneliness. In the book Levin relates some of her experiences -- successes and failures -- in locating Hopper's places.

    Edward Hopper - Painter - Biography

    Some sites, like the lighthouse at Two Lights in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, were easily identifiable and essentially unchanged. Often her search was aided by careful record books kept by Hopper's wife, Jo Nivison, of the locations and subjects of many of his paintings. Other spots were difficult to find, either because they no longer exist or they have been drastically changed. As Levin's expertise wi th Hopper's work increased, she began to acquire a bloodhound's nose for likely Hopper sites. Going into an area like Gloucester, where he painted numerous times, she would -- often with clues provided by the local firemen, who knew the neighborhood houses well -- drive or walk the streets for hours, tracking down his houses.