EDWARD HOPPER, whose true voice in American art was heard a little more than a dozen years ago, is now one of the most distinctive as well as most native of American painters. Yet for 20 years his art career was obscure to a point of mystery. Hopper's tale of finding himself and his honest presentation of the American scene, is told at the Carnegie Institute this month in an exhibition of 32 oils, 53 water colors and 11 etchings. His is a story to encourage any struggling young artist. In 23 years he sold but two pictures, and now, success at hand, three museums have purchased paintings within the past yearthe Metropolitan Museum recently bought From Williamsburg Bridge, to be added to the museum's previous Hopper acquisition, Table for Ladies.
In these plain but sometimes brilliant statements of various phases in American life, Hopper is unreserved in his use of light. It is the most powerful and personal factor in his work. There is no floundering or experimenting in this mature art. The brushwork may be modest and the color often commonplace, but Hopper's construction is always forcible. Even his sense of color reveals him as a pure painter, for at no time does he take liberties with nature's own color scheme. To him a sky is blue, the grass green and buildings brown, gray or white. Often, as in his studies of light-houses, Hopper will place dazzling white buildings, but this artist has a peculiar power to achieve intensity with simple planes.
Hopper's first art studies began at the New York School of Art, known as the Chase School, where he came under the influence of Robert Henri. Years later he was to remember Henri's advice, "Go to the life about you for your subject material." In Paris he was introduced to the works of Sisley, Renoir and Pissaro, and during this time he painted the streets of Paris. After his appearance in "The First Independent Show" in 1908, along with Bellows, Glenn Coleman, Rockwell Kent and Guy Pène du Bois, Hopper was scarcely heard from in American art circles during the next ten years, except in 1913 when he exhibited in the famous Armory Show. There he sold his first canvas, The Sailboat. He tried his talent from time to time as an illustrator, but was not altogether successful. Then he began to etch. The 11 prints in the present show, made between 1919 and 1923, show his interest in light and shadow and his exceptional command of this medium. Recognition started his way in 1924 when the Rehn Galleries gave him a water color exhibition which met with marked success. Since 1928 Hopper has been represented annually in the Carnegie Internationals.
"Carnegie Traces Hopper's Rise to Fame," Art Digest (April 1937), p. 14. American Art/NPG Library, Smithsonian Institution.