Minneapolis, December 2 2013— The Walker Art Center presents Hopper Drawing: A Painter’s Process, the first major exhibition to focus on the drawings and creative process of the iconic American artist Edward Hopper (1882–1967). While past exhibitions and publications have investigated Hopper’s work and artistic practice, this touring exhibition for the first time illuminates the centrality of drawing to Hopper’s work and allows a fresh look at many of his landmark paintings. The exhibition was organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, and will be on view March 13 through June 22, 2014 in the Walker’s Target and Friedman Galleries.
Hopper Drawing: A Painter’s Process features more than two hundred works by the artist, including drawings, watercolors, and paintings, and is the result of in-depth curatorial research into the more than 2,500 works on paper by Hopper in the Whitney’s collection, many of which have never been seen. The works on view will span the artist’s career, and will include 22 of his best-known paintings—including Office at Night (1940) from the Walker’s collection—with their preparatory drawings and studies. In doing so, the exhibition illuminates how the artist transformed ordinary subjects—a city street, an office space, a house, a bedroom—into enduring images that are among the most celebrated in American art.
“The exhibition provides a rare opportunity to understand not only Hopper’s creative process, but also the remarkable influence that his environment had on his work,” said Siri Engberg, the coordinating curator for the Walker’s presentation. “The exhibition includes fascinating research into Hopper’s practice of synthesizing what he observed in the world around him with his own imagination. Drawing became the crucial link.” To illuminate this connection, the exhibition includes photographic documentation of the actual sites that inspired many of Hopper’s best-known works as well as a program of documentary films in the galleries.
Edward Hopper’s education as an artist was fairly traditional, with intensive early training in drawing—particularly rendering the nude human figure. This included life drawing classes at the New York School of Art, where he studied from 1900 to 1906 with the celebrated artist Robert Henri. In the 1920s, Hopper continued to hone his drawing skills at the Whitney Studio Club (a precursor to the Whitney Museum of American Art) near his Greenwich Village studio. His draftsmanship served Hopper throughout his career, especially after the 1930s, when he shifted from painting directly from nature to improvised subjects, deepening his drawing practice—often making 10-15 studies for a painting—as he imagined ideas for his oils.
The Walker’s presentation of the exhibition will be arrayed thematically and roughly chronologically, with focus on key paintings and their preparatory studies and related works. The presentation will be grouped into six thematic areas:
Early Work, a section highlighting the artist’s first forays into the medium of drawing, from figure studies executed from life to illustrations, portraits, and preparatory studies. This section shows how Hopper honed his choice of drawing medium from an early stage, favoring black chalk and the rich, subtle tone he was able to achieve with it.
Paris, a section presenting work produced during Hopper’s early and formative travels to Paris and Europe between 1906 and 1910. Included here are recently identified pages from the artist’s Paris sketchbooks, featuring lively and acute observations of street life and café culture, in combination with a selection of related paintings including Soir Bleu (1914; Whitney Museum).
Hopper and the City, a section highlighting Hopper’s strong affinity for urban subject matter, particularly the environs of New York, where he lived and worked for most of his career. Included in this section are important paintings such as From Williamsburg Bridge (1928; The Metropolitan Museum of Art), Manhattan Bridge Loop (1928; Addison Gallery of American Art), and Summertime (1943; Delaware Art Museum) along with their related works on paper that show Hopper’s abiding interest in views of the city as it might be seen as a pedestrian or from the train. The buildings and places that inspired much of Hopper’s work were not far from the modest apartment he shared with his wife, Jo. Hopper lived at 3 Washington Square North in Greenwich Village from 1913 until his death in 1967, and walked the neighborhood’s streets regularly.
Interiors, a section devoted to Hopper’s often intimate glimpses into the narratives played out in the inner life of the city. Included in this section are his celebrated paintings Hotel Lobby (1943; Indianapolis Museum of Art); Office at Night (1940; Walker Art Center), and the related canvas Conference at Night (1949; Wichita Art Museum). In explaining the unique perspective in Office at Night the artist wrote, “The picture was probably first suggested by many rides on the ‘L’ train in New York after dark, and glimpses of office interiors that were so fleeting as to leave fresh and vivid impressions on my mind.”
The Road, a group of works featuring the roadside landscape that became one of the artist’s central motifs, reflecting the impact of the automobile on American life as well as Hopper’s experiences of landscapes seen in motion, framed by his car’s windows. From the time that Edward and Josephine Hopper purchased their first automobile in 1927, driving became increasingly central to his working process and search for subjects, and their car often served as his mobile studio for making drawings and watercolors. This section includes iconic paintings such as Rooms for Tourists (1945; Yale University Art Gallery), alongside lesser-known views of the landscape such as Road and Trees (1962; private collection), as well as numerous drawings and studies.
The Bedroom, is the exhibition’s final section, and features a group of works based on the theme of the solitary figure in a room, a subject that Hopper treated in every medium in which he worked during his career—from oil paint and watercolor to etching and drawing. He returned to this theme again and again over the decades of his life, most often focusing on the private realm of the bedroom and on a female protagonist who looks toward a window to the outside—a simple compositional formula suggesting a metaphor for the self in the world. On view in this section are a group of well-known canvases and their accompanying studies, including Morning in a City (1944; Williams College Museum of Art); Morning Sun (1952; Columbus Museum of Art); and A Woman in the Sun (1961; Whitney Museum), painted toward the end of the artist’s life.
While exhibitions and scholarly publications have investigated many aspects of Hopper’s art—his prints, his illustrations, his influence on contemporary art and film, to name a few—this exhibition will, for the first time, illuminate the centrality of drawing to Hopper’s work, and allow a fresh view on his landmark contributions to twentieth-century art. His drawings help to untangle the complex relationship between reality—what Hopper called “the fact”—and imagination or “improvisation” in his work. These sensitive and incisive responses to the world around him led to the creation of paintings that continue to inspire and fascinate.
Hopper Drawing: A Painter’s Process opens with a special Target Free Thursday Night celebration on March 13, 2014, and a series of programs and related events will run throughout the exhibition. A dedicated gallery space adjacent to the exhibition houses “Old School Art School,” a fully functioning studio where local art instructors will conduct drawing classes ranging from beginning lessons to advanced life drawing, and films related to Hopper Drawing: A Painter’s Process will be screened in the Lecture Room on select Target Free Thursday Nights. For updated event information and schedules, visit walkerart.org.
Organizing curator: Carter E. Foster, the Steven and Ann Ames Curator of Drawing, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Walker Art Center coordinating curator: Siri Engberg, Senior Curator of Visual Arts.
The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue, Hopper Drawing, designed by McCall Associates and distributed by Yale University Press. The first in-depth study of Edward Hopper’s drawings, it features a number of the works reproduced for the first time, along with photographs and other archival materials. Written primarily by Carter E. Foster, the catalogue also includes contributions by Daniel S. Palmer, Nicholas Robbins, Kimia Shahi, and Mark W. Turner. ($60; Hardcover; 250 pages)
Hopper Drawing: A Painter’s Process is organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. This exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and Humanities.
Additional support for the Walker’s presentation is generously provided by Miriam and Erwin Kelen and the Martin and Brown Foundation.
The Walker Art Center is located at 1750 Hennepin Avenue—where Hennepin meets Lyndale—one block off Highways I-94 and I-394, in Minneapolis. For public information, call 612.375.7600 or visit walkerart.org. Stay connected via your mobile device and follow us on Twitter and Facebook.