I am a hero! Not in a cinematic, Hopper-esque portrayal, calm & melancholic, lonely & sophisticated… more like a defying-the-cold-a-freezing-Sunday-afternoon way, queuing along with several hundred other heroic sufferers outside Grand Palais, secretly or aloud pleading to be (finally!) allowed inside the exhibition of Edward Hopper [1882 – 1967], one of the most important in Europe this year -still on until 28 January 2013-, not least because it’s the one and only chance for us Europeans to see Hopper’s oeuvre without having to actually travel to the States. Whose popularity has grown stronger in the recent years, judging by the infinite queues and masses of people inside and out of Grand Palais, since last October.
The exhibition follows the artist’s evolution and is divided chronologically into two main parts: the formative years (1900-1924), where Hopper’s work is compared with artists’ that influenced him while visiting Paris but also other main European cultural centres, like London and Amsterdam. Hopper studied under such artists as William Merritt Chase and Robert Henri, also major influences for the aspiring artist.
The second section looks at the art of Hopper’s mature years, from his first paintings where he’d finally reached his personal, distinctive style (House by the Railroad – 1924), to his last works (Two Comedians -1966)… passing through a middle section: his etchings. Hopper discovered etching early on – in 1915 – which was a commercial success and permitted some artistic freedom during the early (struggling) years of his career. It also helped him to become a better painter (the artist’s own words).
References to Vermeer or De Chirico, become apparent as you walk through, for it’s Hopper’s manner of positioning his subjects and using light to create this distinctive atmosphere & mood and -at times- surreal strangeness, that captures you. He may well have been inspired by Rembrandt, Manet & Degas but it’s Hopper’s personal style of depicting a solitary quietness and desolation, repeated everywhere: in portraits or landscapes, houses or lighthouses, theatres or cafes, watercolours or oils, that remains with you. That, and the art of making something complex, dark and sophisticated seem rather simple, close, recognisable in an every-day-life sense, establishes the creator of Nighthawks, Chop Suey and Gas, as one of the most important figures in contemporary art.
“Paint what you feel. Paint what you see. Paint what is real to you.” Robert Henri
And as a good student, Hopper went from this:
Jo, his wife, his life long indispensable companion, modeled for almost all of Hopper’s paintings. She lived with him a complicated, one might say toxic life, of almost 40 years and died just 10 months after her husband’s death!
Resume: Was the one-and-a-half hours standing outside, in freezing conditions worth it? Verdict: Every icy second of it!
Here, I must mention that we were aided by some ultra fresh, thick and juicy pieces of cake we got on our way to Grand Palais from the best Jewish baker in Paris (Murciano, 14-16, rue des Rosiers)! And super warm clothes…