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“If you could say it in words there would be no reason to paint.” – Edward Hopper

History

Like all sensible New Yorkers, Edward and Jo Hopper decamped to more forgiving climes in the summer, but not entirely because of the intolerable heat and humidity. Their retreat was almost unfailingly a New England one. There, Edward found the dunes and cottages on Cape Cod, the rolling hills and farms of Vermont, the fishing fleets at Cape Ann and the lighthouses along the coast, fair compensation for the arduous process of creating urban portraits of ordinary people alone with their thoughts and moods and brought to fruition with plodding precision and an inescapable insistence on perfection. From 1930 onward, the Hoppers would spend almost half the year in South Truro where they constructed a plain, shingled home and studio of their own. Financed by Jo’s inheritance, it was built the summer of 1934 upon a grassy knoll above Corn Hill Beach and the Massachusetts Bay surrounded by sandy hills and stands of pines and scrub oak. They would spend thirty summers here, and Edward would complete about 75 watercolors and 43 oils of local scenes as well as 20 major paintings brought from his Greenwich Village studio on Washington Square.

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    Edward Hopper in front of his South Truro home, 1960. Photo: Arnold Newman
“Great art is the outward expression of an inner life in the artist, and this inner life will result in his personal vision of the world.” – Edward Hopper

MARKET INSIGHTS

  • HopperAMR_10_Year
  • The quantity of top-quality Edward Hopper watercolors is finite. Since 1986, fewer than 50 Edward Hopper watercolors have appeared at auction. To put this into perspective, during the same period over 2,700 Andy Warhol works on paper (including drawings) have appeared at auction.
  • Of the 357 watercolors Hopper created, 215 are in museum collections worldwide, where they will likely remain. This leaves 142 watercolors in private collections that could become available for sale.
  • Of the 366 oil paintings by Hopper, 321 are in museums, leaving only 45 in private collections.
  • The scarcity of important works has led to a very strong market performance for the relatively few available works to appear in the marketplace over the past 10 years. The graph by Art Market Research shows that in the last 10 years, paintings by Hopper have increased at a 40% annual rate of return.

Top Oil Paintings Sold at Auction

"Chop Suey" (1929), oil on canvas, 32 x 38 in. Sold at Christie’s New York: 13 November 2018 for $91,875,000 USD
“Chop Suey” (1929), oil on canvas, 32 x 38 in. Sold at Christie’s New York: 13 November 2018 for $91,875,000 USD
"East Wind Over Weehawken" (1934), oil on canvas, 34 x 50 ¼ in. Sold at Christie’s New York: 5 December 2013 for $40,485,000 USD
“East Wind Over Weehawken” (1934), oil on canvas, 34 x 50 ¼ in. Sold at Christie’s New York: 5 December 2013 for $40,485,000 USD
"Hotel Window" (1955), oil on canvas, 40 x 55 in. Sold at Sotheby’s New York: 29 November 2006 for $26,896,000 USD
“Hotel Window” (1955), oil on canvas, 40 x 55 in. Sold at Sotheby’s New York: 29 November 2006 for $26,896,000 USD
"Blackwell’s Island" (1928), oil on canvas, 34 ½ x 59 ½ in. Sold at Christie’s New York: 22 May 2013 for $19,163,750 USD
“Blackwell’s Island” (1928), oil on canvas, 34 ½ x 59 ½ in. Sold at Christie’s New York: 22 May 2013 for $19,163,750 USD

Top Watercolors Sold at Auction

"Kelly Jenness House" (1932), 20 x 28 in. Sold at Christie’s New York: 22 May 2013 for $4,155,750 USD
“Kelly Jenness House” (1932), 20 x 28 in. Sold at Christie’s New York: 22 May 2013 for $4,155,750 USD
"Cottages at North Truro" (1938), 20 x 28 in. Sold at Christie’s New York: 12 November 2018 for $3,492,500 USD
“Cottages at North Truro” (1938), 20 x 28 in. Sold at Christie’s New York: 12 November 2018 for $3,492,500 USD
"Rich’s House" (1930), 16 ¾ x 25 ¾ in. Sold at Christie’s New York: 8 May 2018 for $3,252,500 USD
“Rich’s House” (1930), 16 ¾ x 25 ¾ in. Sold at Christie’s New York: 8 May 2018 for $3,252,500 USD

Comparable Watercolors Sold at Auction

"Windy Day" (1938), watercolor on paper, 21 x 30 in. Sold at Christie’s New York: 22 May 2019 for $1,155,000 USD
“Windy Day” (1938), watercolor on paper, 21 x 30 in. Sold at Christie’s New York: 22 May 2019 for $1,155,000 USD
  • Slightly larger than Spindly Locusts
  • Similar in scene and year (no figures, no architecture, 1938)
  • Selling for $1.15 million in 2019
"Oregon Coast" (1941), watercolor on paper, 19 4/5 x 27 ½ in. Sold at Sotheby’s London: 5 February 2014 for $884,558 USD
“Oregon Coast” (1941), watercolor on paper, 19 4/5 x 27 ½ in. Sold at Sotheby’s London: 5 February 2014 for $884,558 USD
  • Similar size and scene (no figures, no architecture)
  • Slightly more simplistic in color and format
  • Sold $300,000 over high estimate for almost $900,000 in 2014 – market has improved greatly since
"Shacks at Pamet Head" (1937), watercolor on paper, 20 x 22 in. Sold at Sotheby’s New York: 19 May 2004 for $702,400 USD
“Shacks at Pamet Head” (1937), watercolor on paper, 20 x 22 in. Sold at Sotheby’s New York: 19 May 2004 for $702,400 USD
  • This sale from 2004 shows the increase in Hopper’s market, today this would be worth 3x what it sold for then

Comparable Paintings in Museum Collections

"First Branch of the White River, Vermont" (1938), watercolor over graphite pencil on paper, 21 3/4 x 26 7/8 in. The Museum of Fine Arts Boston
“First Branch of the White River, Vermont” (1938), watercolor over graphite pencil on paper, 21 3/4 x 26 7/8 in. The Museum of Fine Arts Boston
"Dead Tree and Side of Lombard House" (1931), watercolor on paper, 20 x 28 in. The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid
“Dead Tree and Side of Lombard House” (1931), watercolor on paper, 20 x 28 in. The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid
"Vermont Landscape" (1936), watercolor and graphite pencil on paper, 21 7/8 x 29 5/8 in. The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
“Vermont Landscape” (1936), watercolor and graphite pencil on paper, 21 7/8 x 29 5/8 in. The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
"Coast Guard Station, Two Lights, Maine" (1927), Watercolor, gouache and charcoal on paper, 14 x 20 in. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
“Coast Guard Station, Two Lights, Maine” (1927), Watercolor, gouache and charcoal on paper, 14 x 20 in. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
“No amount of skillful invention can replace the essential element of imagination.” – Edward Hopper

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Additional Resources

Watch: Upcoming Hopper “Virtual Lecture”: Rockland Art Center
Watch: CBS SUNDAY MORNING spot on Edward Hopper, his place in American Art
Read: “How Edward Hopper became an artist for the pandemic age” Article in New Statesman

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