Pictures at an Exhibition

We took a trip to the National Gallery of Art in the lull between Christmas and New Years to see the Edward Hopper exhibit which continues until January 21. If you are in or near Washington before it closes, it would be worth your while to stop in and see it.  

As is usual, the most famous of his paintings is in a gallery at the far end of the show which takes up several rooms, and there is a tendency, especially if there is a large crowd, to rush through the first rooms to get there; but if you do that, you will miss a treat. For his iconic paintings, known for their evocative effect, do not, I think, capture the full range of his artistic genius.  

His earlier etchings and water colors do, however. To me, a painter must master light, and in these early paintings and sketches Hopper does indeed master it. Light and how it is absorbed and reflected on water, grain, roof tops, streets, and buildings are what makes his paintings of Glouster and Maine and Truoro so exceptional. The interplay between color, form and light has never been better illustrated.  

After you've studied his early works and made it to the paintings for which he is most famous, you may notice what you'd overlooked in fascination with the scenarios represented: The gleam of reflected light off the coffee urns in Nighthawks, The different glow cast by different light sources in New York movie and Silber's Pharmacy, for example.  

And, of course, it is a nostalgic view of middle class urban life we are seeing, because it is virtually non-existent in Manhattan where so much of this work was done.  

Don't waste a lot of time reading what the museum has offered as explanations for some of these works. Hopper when asked usually replied there was no story; the painting just was what it was. " Great art," he wrote," is the outward expression of an inner life in the artist, and this inner life will result in his personal vision of the world." And I think he was being truthful. He was an artist, not a storyteller. Though if I taught creative writing, I'd have the class members write their versions. Like most good artists, Hopper has left it to the viewer's internal perspective to fill in the tale he depicted. Fill in the blanks with your personal vision.  
We took a trip to the National Gallery of Art in the lull between Christmas and New Years to see the Edward Hopper exhibit which continues until January 21. If you are in or near Washington before it closes, it would be worth your while to stop in and see it.  

As is usual, the most famous of his paintings is in a gallery at the far end of the show which takes up several rooms, and there is a tendency, especially if there is a large crowd, to rush through the first rooms to get there; but if you do that, you will miss a treat. For his iconic paintings, known for their evocative effect, do not, I think, capture the full range of his artistic genius.  

His earlier etchings and water colors do, however. To me, a painter must master light, and in these early paintings and sketches Hopper does indeed master it. Light and how it is absorbed and reflected on water, grain, roof tops, streets, and buildings are what makes his paintings of Glouster and Maine and Truoro so exceptional. The interplay between color, form and light has never been better illustrated.  

After you've studied his early works and made it to the paintings for which he is most famous, you may notice what you'd overlooked in fascination with the scenarios represented: The gleam of reflected light off the coffee urns in Nighthawks, The different glow cast by different light sources in New York movie and Silber's Pharmacy, for example.  

And, of course, it is a nostalgic view of middle class urban life we are seeing, because it is virtually non-existent in Manhattan where so much of this work was done.  

Don't waste a lot of time reading what the museum has offered as explanations for some of these works. Hopper when asked usually replied there was no story; the painting just was what it was. " Great art," he wrote," is the outward expression of an inner life in the artist, and this inner life will result in his personal vision of the world." And I think he was being truthful. He was an artist, not a storyteller. Though if I taught creative writing, I'd have the class members write their versions. Like most good artists, Hopper has left it to the viewer's internal perspective to fill in the tale he depicted. Fill in the blanks with your personal vision.