Edward Hopper, whose large one man exhibition was held at the Museum of Modern Art in 1933, is having a show of his early paintings at the Rehn Gallery. None of these twenty-three subjects, which are dated from 1907 through 1914, appeared in that display. And for those of us who were not around at the time they first were shown at the Whitney Studio Club about twenty years ago they are a distinct revelation. Not that one will come readily to the opinion that they are in any sense as good as this artist's mature work; but the fact they indicate so much of the character of his development and are really very pictorial besides makes the event interesting.
Hopper painted these views during his early visits to Paris, and during the years immediately following his returnpictures of strong outlines of famous buildings and bridges such as Notre Dame and the Pont des Arts in themand others of New York El stations, street fronts, interiors with figures and coastal subjects. And what an air of the fragrant past they blow our way! It is clear that Hopper showed great talent at the time he left the Chase School, for these pictures were painted soon afterward. It is equally clear that he began painting definitely excited by the teachings which Henri, who then was head of the school, injected into all of his famous pupils.
It would be a mistake, we think, to expiate on what may be the merit of these paintings, or to do more than point out that many of them are very summary in their impressionistic statement of the pictorial facts. But the general run of them, the vivid "Corner Saloon" presaging the more concentrated studies of red brick and cornices of later years; the "Railroad Train" with its suggestion of movement; the gaunt "Queensborough Bridge" and the Manet-like "Summer Interior" and "Tramp Steamer these all show brisk flashes of decorative brushwork and color, and exceptional understanding of simple pictorial values. "Squam Light," incidentally, appears in the display as the first of the studies of lighthouses that since have been so much a part of Hopper's pictorial repertory, and with his other architectural Americana have helped to give him his distinctive place in American Art.
Carlyle Burrows, "The Early Work of Edward Hopper," New York Herald Tribune (12 January 1941), Section 6, page 8.