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The first in-depth study of the artist's working process
23 May 23–6 October 2013
This spring, the Whitney Museum celebrates Edward Hopper’s achievements as a draughtsman, in the first major museum exhibition to focus on the artist’s drawings and working process. Along with many of his paintings, the exhibition features more than 200 drawings, the most extensive presentation to date of Hopper’s achievement in this medium, pairing suites of preparatory studies and related works with such major oil paintings as New York Movie (1939), Office at Night (1940), Nighthawks (1942), and Morning in a City (1944). The show will be presented in the Museum’s third-floor Peter Norton Family Galleries from 23 May to 6 October, before travelling to the Dallas Museum of Art from 17 November 2013 to 6 February 2014 and the Walker Art Center from 15 March to 22 June 2014.
Taken from the Museum’s unparalleled collection of the artist’s work and complemented by key loans, the show illuminates how the artist transformed ordinary subjects – an open road, a city street, an office space, a house, a bedroom – into extraordinary images. Carter E. Foster, the Steven and Ann Ames Curator of Drawing at the Whitney, organized the show following in-depth research into the more than 2,500 works on paper by Hopper in the Whitney’s collection. These pieces trace the artist’s process of observation, reflection, and invention that was central to the development of his poetic and famously uncanny paintings. The works on view will span the artist’s career, from early drawn exercises of his student days to Sun in an Empty Room (1963, private collection), one of the last paintings Hopper completed, and are concentrated on mid-century sheets related to his best-known oil paintings.
‘By comparing related studies to paintings, we can see the evolution of specific ideas as the artist combined, through drawing, his observations of the world with his imagination’, says Foster. ‘In other instances, his drawings provide a crucial form of continuity among thematically related paintings, a kind of connective tissue that allowed Hopper to revisit and re-examine ideas over time.’
While exhibitions and scholarly publications have investigated many aspects of Hopper’s art – his prints, his illustrations, his influence on contemporary art, to name a few – this exhibition will, for the first time, illuminate the centrality of drawing to Hopper’s work and allow a fresh look at his landmark contributions to 20th-century art. His drawings help to untangle the complex relationship between reality – what Hopper called ‘the fact’ – and imagination or ‘improvisation’ in his work. They ultimately demonstrate his sensitive and incisive responses to the world around him that led to the creation of paintings that continue to inspire and fascinate.
Though the slowness and deliberation of Hopper’s creative process –and his relatively small output of oils – has long been noted, it is only through an examination of his drawings that we can understand the gestation of the artist’s ideas and the transformations they underwent from paper to canvas. In his lifetime, the artist only occasionally exhibited or sold his drawings, retaining most of them for personal reference and using them throughout his career as he developed the lifelong themes and preoccupations of his major oil paintings.
The exhibition will provide similar insight into the creation of many of Hopper’s celebrated paintings, such as Soir Bleu (1914, Whitney Museum), Manhattan Bridge Loop (1928, Addison Gallery of American Art) and From Williamsburg Bridge (1928, Metropolitan Museum of Art), Office at Night (1940, Walker Art Center), Conference at Night (1949, Wichita Art Museum), Gas (1940, MoMA), Rooms for Tourists (1945, Yale University Art Gallery), and a number of others. These works will be paired and grouped to emphasize the artist’s interest in and revisiting of a relatively narrow set of themes and subjects over the course of his nearly seven-decade-long career.
'Hopper Drawing' is accompanied by a richly illustrated, approximately 250-page catalogue designed by McCall Associates and distributed by Yale University Press. This catalogue, the first in-depth study of Hopper’s drawings, will be an indispensable resource for scholars and the public. It will feature a number of drawings reproduced for the first time, along with photographs and other archival materials that provide a rich historical context for the works.
The Whitney Museum of American Art