Edward Hopper at the Chicago Art Institute

The American master Edward Hopper (18821967) is one of the most enduring and popular artists of the 20th century. Edward Hopper, the largest and most significant exhibition devoted to the artist outside of his native New York City in nearly three decades, celebrates his vision and his place in American cultural history. On view February 16 to May 10, 2008, Edward Hopper includes 90 paintings, prints, and watercolours from Hopper’s entire career, focusing on the period of his greatest achievementsfrom 1925 to 1950. The exhibition concludes its tour at the Art Institute of Chicago after being seen at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.

Judith Barter, co-curator of the exhibition and the Art Institute’s Field-McCormick Chair of American Art, remarked: “The Art Institute is fortunate to have Hopper’s iconic Nighthawks in our permanent collection, and we are very pleased to now present this familiar work within the broad context of Hopper’s considerable and accomplished career as an artist. Edward Hopper will prove to be one of the defining presentations of his work for decades to come.”

Edward Hopper, a ticketed exhibition mounted in conjunction with Watercolors by Winslow Homer: The Color of Light, features such well-known works as Automat (1927), Drug Store (1927), Early Sunday Morning (1930), and New York Movie (1939) as well as a number of paintings exclusive to the Art Institute venue and not shown in Boston and Washington. The exhibition begins with a group of paintings and prints from the 1910s and early 1920s which introduce his signature subjects and reveal his beginnings as an artist influenced by both the American Ashcan school and French Impressionism to which he was exposed during student years in Paris. The core of the exhibition is dedicated to the mature, highly original images for which he is justly famous: majestic Maine lighthouses; Manhattan apartments, restaurants, and theaters; and 19th-century houses of Gloucester and Cape Cod. Hopper’s career spanned six decades, and in his epic late paintings seen here, created during the ascendancy of abstract expressionism, he remained a staunch realist, his style marked by increasing simplicity and austerity. He excelled across many mediain oil, watercolor, and printsand this exhibition presents his greatest work in all three media.

Novelist John Updike described Hopper’s work as “calm, silent, stoic, luminous, and classic,” and it is now recognized as part of the very grain and texture of the American experience, inspiring generations of artists, writers, and filmmakers as diverse as David Hockney, Mark Rothko, Alfred Hitchcock, Todd Haynes, and Norman Mailer. Hopper is widely recognized as one of the most profound modern American artists, praised for his mastery at painting light, for his direct, eloquent realism, and for his unique sensitivity to modern American life. His compositions often offer a frozen moment, a glimpse of life viewed in passing from a moving elevated train or nearby street corner. He was a consummate spectator, showing us fresh views of waitresses through restaurant windows, theatregoers reading playbills, and women in front of windows undressing or staring out into the sunlight. His buildings take on a life of their own; their angles, defined by shadows bathed in purple and green, shape his compositions. A superb colourist, Hopper carefully used different hues to structure his landscapes, buildings, and interiors. He successfully combined these lush colours with geometric shapes drawn from Cubism to create his own brand of modernist expressionone evocative of light and mood. Hopper’s paintings also reflect his love of American literature and film, which filled his canvases with understated drama, and which are the subject of related programming at the Art Institute.

A comprehensive, 264-page, fully illustrated catalogue accompanies the Edward Hopper exhibition. With 170 colour and 15 black-and-white illustrations, Edward Hopper includes essays by exhibition co-curator Judith Barter, the Field-McCormick Chair of American Art at the Art Institute of Chicago; Ellen Roberts, assistant curator of American Art at the Art Institute of Chicago; Carol Troyen, the Kristin and Roger Servison curator emerita of paintings, Art of the Americas, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; and others. The volume is available for purchase in the Museum Shop and online at www.artinstituteshop.org.