Our exhibition of work by Edward Hopper here in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, presents a personal look at the artistic history of the quintessential American artist. He was born in 1882 in Nyack, New York, and much of his early work features that landscape and his home there: the exquisite early oil painting, Old Ice Pond at Nyack, and the drawing, Back of Hopper House, for example.
Some of these works on paper are studies for paintings while others are more personal ephemera from his life – cartoons and sketches shared with friends and family. Hopper initially made a living as an illustrator, and that background comes through in the often humorous narrative style of his drawings. In Neck Act I and Act II, both included in our exhibition, a man attempts to avoid a woman in Act I, then he reluctantly accepts her embrace in Act II.
Other drawings in the exhibition shed light on Hopper’s relationship with his wife, Jo. The charcoal on paper from 1947, Jo Sleeping, is an intimate portrait of his spouse, who was his only model after they were married. In a more humorous tableau, the 1932 graphite drawing, Status Quo, depicts Jo and her cat seated at a table while a man, presumably Hopper, eats his meal on the floor.
Edward Hopper valued his drawings as records of the artistic process – not only as tools in the development of a painting, but also to offer insight into his way of connecting the observed world with his internal influences. For Hopper, creating art was a way of combining objective observation with emotional perception. The result was a profound, honest, and affecting American Realism. This exhibition explores Hopper’s various influences: the combination of his early family life, illustration background, school experiences, marriage, and even the media with which he experimented to provide a deeper understanding of his whole body of work.