Edward Hopper, The El Station,
1908, o/c, 20 x 29. Courtesy of the
Whitney Museum of American Art, New
York; Josephine N. Hopper Bequest.
Edward Hopper, "Queensborough Bridge," 1913,
o/c 25.5 x 57.5". Whitney Museum of American
Art, New York; Josephine N. Hopper Bequest.
Edward Hopper, "Statue at Park
Entrance," 1918-20, o/c, 24 x 29". Whitney
Museum of AmericanArt, New York;
Josephine N. Hopper Bequest.
A rich exhibition of Edward Hoppers early work and that of his fellow painters of the Ash Can School is a rewarding look at the beauty and transient character of the urban landscape. Over 30 artists who were working in New York during the early decades of the 20th Century, and who represent the Ash Can School, including George Luks, John Sloan, Everett Shin and George Bellows, as well as Hopper--represented by a selection of early works--are in this exhibition of 50 paintings organized by the Whitney Museum of Modern Art. Many of these artists were students of Robert Henri, who is known for his loose brushstrokes and deep, luminous colors. Henri encouraged his students to look at the urban scene with a new realism shorn of the stiff trappings of academic style. The artists portrayals of the endlessly fascinating vistas of a vibrant and bustling city earned them such contemporary labels as the Apostles of Ugliness and the Ash Can School.
|Hoppers The El Station is an elegant study in refined abstraction. The human figures are mere blurs in the geometric, urban cityscape that Hopper represents. Hopper has refined the forms to the rectangular march of the chimneys and the long horizontal line of the train tracks. The cold light of a winter afternoon is convincingly portrayed as a subtle glow emanating from Hoppers muted palette of white, gray, terracotta, brown and black.
Also noteworthy is Hoppers painting, Queensborough Bridge, which is indebted to the French Impressionists in its shifting and subtle atmospheric effects, yet rooted in an American aesthetic of scale and industrial might. This bridge dwarfs the lone house beneath its span, and the composition is enveloped in a silvery white light that makes the whole shimmer with color and movement.
This is a notewothy exhibition because of the rarity of the early Hoppers and the strong work of his fellow Ash Can painters. It is a pleasure to view the loose and atmospheric handling of the urban scene, and to track the emerging development of Hopper as the master of a restrained and powerful urban realism.