Edward Hopper - Self Portrait (1925-1930) detail cape home Museum

Edward Hopper

United States 1882 - 1967


Edward Hopper
Edward Hopper
United States
April 3, 2017
Andreja Velimirović is a passionate content writer with a knack for art and old movies. Majoring in art history, he is an expert on avant-garde modern movements and medieval church fresco decorations. Feel free to contact him via his Linkedin profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/andreja-velimirovi%C4%87-74068a68/

Easily one of the greatest American Modern masters to have ever lived, Edward Hopper is known for his realistic oil paintings of rural and city life in the United States between the two Great Wars. His pictorial masterpieces perfectly depict just how lonely and isolated humans can feel in a modern era despite the fact there are so many of us living here at the same time. By stripping away almost all signs of life or mobility and adding dramatic means of representation with outstanding lighting designs, Edward portrayed the psychological inner life of his subjects. In fact, Hopper’s supreme smooth style and suggestive topics were a mere mirror of the author’s own emotional state[1] and the way he saw the stories surrounding him[2], as evidenced by his own following statement: Great art is the outward expression of an inner life in the artist and this inner life will result in his personal vision of the world.

People who wear a cape early at night need neither a home nor a house
Edward Hopper – Railroad Sunset – Image via pinterest.com

Growing up by the Hudson River

Edward Hopper was born on the 22nd of July in the year of 1882, in Nyack, a small shipbuilding community on the Hudson River, New York. He was the younger of two children in an educated middle-class family and was encouraged in his intellectual and artistic pursuits by his parents for the majority of his childhood. Young Edward developed his creative abilities during grammar and high school by working in a wide range of media – he formed an early love for Impressionism and pastoral subject matter during these years. His earliest notable work was an 1895 oil painting of a rowboat. Despite wanting to turn painting into a big part of his life, Hopper dreamed of being a nautical architect during his school days.[3] After receiving a diploma in 1899, the artist briefly participated in a correspondence course in illustration before enrolling at the New York School of Art and Design, where he studied with teachers such as impressionist William Merritt Chase and Robert Henri of the so-called Ashcan School.

Art pieces belong in a museum, not in a city office
Edward Hopper – Gas, 1940 – Image via wikiart.org

Discovering New Artists and Types of Art

As he was being taught by the representatives of the Ashcan School[4], Edward Hopper was naturally learning a lot about the main ideas behind this pivotal movement of American art history – his teachers insisted on realism in both form and content. After completing his studies in the year of 1905, Hopper found work as an illustrator for an advertising agency. This will be the primary means by which he would support himself while continuing to create his own art – however, Hopper himself admitted that this kind of work was quite creatively stifling and unfulfilling. Nonetheless, the advertising agency he worked for paid good money and Edward was able to make several trips abroad during this time of his life. He traveled to Paris on a few occasions and visited Spain as well. These experiences eventually proved to be quite pivotal in shaping his personal style as witnessing all the visual grandeur of European Masters served Hopper exceptionally well in the long run. Despite the growing popularity of abstract movements such as Cubism and Fauvism in Europe, Hopper was most impressed by the works of the then already iconic Impressionists, particularly by the works of Claude Monet and Edouard Manet due to their treatment of light.

New York museum of early American art can house a bunch of people even at night
Edward Hopper – Western Motel, 1957 – Image via pinterest.com

Edward Hopper After His Return to the American Soil

Trying to adopt the way Claude Monet and Edouard Manet used and manipulated light, Hopper painted a few pieces using a similar style, such as the Bridge in Paris (1906), Louvre and Boat Landing (1907) and Summer Interior (1909). After he came back to the United States of America, Edward returned to his illustration career but also began to exhibit his own art made during the time spent abroad. He was featured in the Exhibition of Independent Artists in 1910 and the international Armory Show of 1913 where he sold his first painting titled as Sailing (1911). These shows were a big nod towards the young and aspiring author as his paintings were displayed alongside those made by Paul Gaugin, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Paul Cézanne and Edgar Degas. Soon after that, Hopper moved to an apartment located on the Washington Square in New York City’s Greenwich Village, a place where he will live and work for the remainder of his life. He spent a lot of time in New England as the local picturesque landscapes naturally provided ample subject matter for his impressionist-influenced paintings. The best pieces made in this area were Squam Light (1912) and Road in Maine (1914)[5]. However, despite a flourishing career as an adds illustrator, Hopper rather struggled to find any real interest in his own art as the creative fire stubornly avoided him during the 1910s.

Edward Hopper - The Lighthouse Museum at Two Lights - Image via metmuseum.org
Edward Hopper – The Lighthouse at Two Lights – Image via metmuseum.org

Navigation Around New Techniques and His Wife

Alongside the arrival of the new decade came a reversal of fortune for the seasoned Edward Hopper. In 1920, at age 37, the painter was given his first one-man show, held at the Whitney Studio Club – it featured a collection of Hopper’s paintings of Paris. Three years later, Edward reacquainted with Josephine Nivison, a former classmate of his who was herself a fairly successful painter as well. Soon, the two got married and quickly became inseparable, often working together and influencing each other’s styles. Josephine Nivison insisted that she must be the only female model for her husband’s works, so many of Hopper’s paintings made after 1924 are inhabited by depictions of his wife. Josephine Nivison was also instrumental in Hopper’s transition from oils to watercolors. This will prove to be a great career choice as all of his watercolors were being sold almost at same moment they were put on view in a gallery and this newfound success allowed Hopper to finally quit his dreadful illustration work.

Edward Hopper’s imagery is persistently restrained and it’s only concerned with presenting parts of a much larger, not always related story, only suggesting the narratives that remain a mystery to the viewer

Early New York art of night people belong in a cape house or even a museum
Edward Hopper – High Noon, 1949 – Image via pinterest.com

Edward Hopper and the Unique Treatment of Subjects

Finally able to fully support himself by making artworks and not chained anymore to creating adds, Hopper produced his greatest and most lasting work during the second half of his life. He continued the practice of traveling around the USA in order to paint on spot[6]. Many artworks were made in such a fashion, like The Lighthouse at Two Lights (1929), New York City Automat (1927) and House by the Railroad (1925). Edward had a tendency to leave out the main aspects of a pictorial narrative, forcing the viewer to use his or her imagination in order to complete the narrative. This element of his art would have major repercussions on the development of postmodernism wherein the audience has a major role in the understanding of the artwork[7]. Soon, Edward Hopper was not able to create enough paintings to meet the ever growing demand of the art community that was starting to be obsessed with his work. He became a star of the US scene and was often used as an example that was meant to demonstrate the value of the American art when compared to the work of the Europeans[8].

All the main subjects in Edward Hopper’s paintings are depicted isolated and disconnected from their environments, either literally or metaphorically, symbolizing the solitude of modern life

An artist from New York makes art only if he knows it's for a museum
Edward Hopper – Office in a Small City – Image via metmuseum.org

Last Chapters of His Carrer and Life

Despite the overwhelming success he was enjoying at the time, some of Hopper’s finest work was still to come[9]. In 1939, he completed New York Movie, an image that pictures a young female usher standing alone in a theater lobby, lost in thought. In the January of 1942, Edward completed what is his best-known painting – Nighthawks. This piece featured three patrons and a waiter sitting inside a brightly lit diner on a quiet, empty street. Nighthawks will soon become a symbol of loneliness and solitude in a modern era that by all the logic in the world should not have so much individuality and isolation as it actually does. Nighthawks‘ status as Hopper’s most representative work was underlined by a stark composition, masterful use of light and a characteristic mysterious narrative quality. It was purchased almost immediately by the Art Institute of Chicago where it remains on display to the present day. With the rise of Abstract Expressionism near the middle of the 20th century, Hopper’s popularity faded – however, he continued to create quality work and receive critical acclaim for the remainder of his life. Pieces like the Hotel Window (1955), New York Office (1963) and Sun in an Empty Room (1963) all display his characteristic themes and features. Unfortunately, all of these were created as the artist’s health was gradually worsening, crippling his productivity severely. Edward Hopper died on May 15, 1967, at his Washington Square home in New York City at the age of 84. His wife Josephine died less than a year after him and bequeathed all of their art to the Whitney Museum.

In many ways, Edward Hopper and his art played the role of a conceptual bridge between the contemporary Ashcan School and the explorations of mood put into action by later existential artists

The New York Museum of American Art have an incredible collection of works
Edward Hopper – Nighthawks, 1942 – Image via wikimedia.org

The Product and Consequence of His Art

Edward Hopper defined what the style of the 20th-century realism should be like with his austere, borderline eerie scenes that conveyed the alienation and isolation of modern life. He adapted the norms of the modern era to the avant-garde visual standards, all the while paying tribute to the older figurative painters. Additionally, Hopper’s paintings became a close-to-home national symbol of urban alienation within art making practices, one of the first references that come to mind whenever a discussion concerning artistic depictions of loneliness occurs. No one captured the isolation of the individual within the modern city like Edward did with his paintings[10] and these artworks were, in many ways, responsible for paving the conceptual road towards Abstract Expressionism, bridging its ideas with the concepts of the contemporary Ashcan School.


  1. Levin, G., Hopper, E., Edward Hopper: The Art and the Artist, WW Norton & Co. in assoc. with The Whitney Museum; 1st edition, 1981
  2. Burleigh, R., Minor, W., Edward Hopper Paints His World, Henry Holt and Co. (BYR); First Edition, 2014
  3. Troyen, C., Barter, J., Davis, E., Hopper, E., Edward Hopper, MFA Publications; First edition, 2007
  4. Berman, E., Hopper, E., Edward Hopper’s New York, Pomegranate Communications; First American Edition, 2005
  5. Schmied, W., Edward Hopper: Portraits of America, Prestel; Reprint edition, 2011
  6. Kranzfelder, I., Edward Hopper, 1882-1967: Vision of Reality, Taschen; First Edition, 1998
  7. Marker, S., Edward Hopper, World Publication Group, Inc.; Reprint edition, 2005
  8. Goodrich, L., Hopper, E., Edward Hopper, Harry N. Abrams, Inc.; New edition, 1983
  9. Ormiston, R., Edward Hopper Masterpieces of Art, Flame Tree Publishing; New edition, 2016
  10. Wells, W., Morgan, J., Silent Theater: The Art of Edward Hopper, Phaidon Press; Reprint edition, 2012

Featured image: Edward Hopper – Self-portrait of the artist (detail) – Image via ibiblio.org
All images used for illustrative purposes only.

YearExhibition TitleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group
2017America after the Fall: Painting in the 1930sRoyal Academy of Arts, London Group
2017Masterworks from the Hirshhorn CollectionHirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC Group
2017The Human FormJohn Berggruen Gallery, San Francisco, CA Group
2016Seeing Nature: Landscape Masterworks from the Paul G. Allen Family CollectionThe Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis, MN Group
2016Human Interest: Portraits from the Whitney's CollectionWhitney Museum of American Art, New York City, NY Group
2015Edward Hopper: New York CornerCantor Arts Center at Stanford University, Stanford, CA Solo
2015Night Vision:nocturnes In American Art, 1860-1960Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick, ME Group
2015Painting on Paper: American Watercolors at PrincetonPrinceton University Art Museum, Princeton, NJ Group
2015American Moderns on Paper: Masterworks from the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of ArtFigge Art Museum, Davenport, IA Group
2015Au vent du rêveMusée Cantini, Marseille Group
2015America Is Hard to SeeWhitney Museum of American Art, New York City, NY Group
2015From AboveBlain|Di Donna, New York City, NY Group
2015American Masterworks from the Corcoran, 1815-1940The National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC Group
2014Edward Hopper: The Unknown HopperNorman Rockwell Museum, Stockbridge, MA Solo
2014Hopper Drawing: A Painter’s ProcessWalker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN Solo
2014Edward Hopper: Journey to Blackwell’s IslandCrystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AR Solo
2014The Plot ThickensFraenkel Gallery, San Francisco, CA Group
2014Edward Hopper And PhotographyWhitney Museum of American Art, New York City, NY Group
2014In the Company of Cats and DogsBlanton Museum of Art, Austin, TX Group
2014Our American LifeHirschl & Adler Galleries, New York City, NY Group
2014Emerging from the Shadows: Edward Hopper and his ContemporariesThe Hyde Collection, Glens Falls, NY Group
2014Made In The UsaThe Phillips Collection, Washington, DC Group
2014Modern American Realism: The Sara Roby Foundation CollectionSmithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC Group
2014What's Your Angle?San Jose Museum of Art, San Jose, CA Group
2014100 Works for 100 Years: A Centennial CelebrationMontclair Art Museum, Montclair, NJ Group
2013Hopper Drawing: A Painter’s ProcessDallas Museum of Art, Dallas, TX Solo
2013Edward Hopper in VermontMiddlebury College Museum of Art, Middlebury, VT Solo
2013Hopper DrawingWhitney Museum of American Art, New York City, NY Solo
2013The New SpiritMontclair Art Museum, Montclair, NJ Solo
2013Southwestern Allure: The Art of the Santa Fe Art ColonyBoca Museum of Art, Boca Raton, FL Group
2013This Just In!Amherst College, Amherst, MA Group
2013Crosscurrents: A Treasury Through TimeACA Galleries, New York City, NY Group
2013Art as an ArgumentAltes Rathaus, Bayreuth Group
20131913 Armory Show RevisitedInternational Print Center New York, New York City, NY Group
201319th-20th Century Works on PaperSpanierman Gallery, New York City, NY Group
2013Fenêtres, de la Renaissance à nos jours. Dürer, Monet, Magritte...Fondation de l'Hermitage, Lausanne Group
2012Edward HopperGaleries nationales du Grand Palais, Paris Solo
2012HopperMuseo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid Solo
2012Art Under PressureCrystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AR Group
2012Artists in AmericaNassau County Museum of Art, Roslyn Harbor, NY Group
2012Conférence de Christine SourginsGalerie Alain Blondel, Paris Group
2012To See as Artists See: American Art from The Phillips CollectionAmon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, TX Group
2012Youth and Beauty: Art of the American TwentiesThe Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH Group
2012Youth and Beauty: Art of the American TwentiesDallas Museum of Art, Dallas, TX Group
2012Tides of ProvincetownWichita Art Museum WAM, Wichita, KS Group
2012A New Vision: Modernist PhotographyCurrier Museum of Art, Manchester, NH Group
2012To See as Artists See: American Art from The Phillips CollectionFrist Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville, TN Group
2011Edward Hopper’s MaineBowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick, ME Solo
2011Edward Hopper in VermontMiddlebury College Museum of Art, Middlebury, VT Solo
2011Youth and Beauty: Art of the American TwentiesBrooklyn Museum of Art, New York City, NY Group
2011Hopper's Contemporaries: Artists in New EnglandBowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick, ME Group
2011New York, New York! The 20th CenturyThe Hyde Collection, Glens Falls, NY Group
2011Masterworks: The Best of Hirschl & AdlerHirschl & Adler Galleries, New York City, NY Group
2011Breaking Ground: The Whitney’s Founding CollectionWhitney Museum of American Art, New York City, NY Group
2011New York, New York! The 20th CenturyWichita Art Museum WAM, Wichita, KS Group
2010Edward HopperBerta Walker Gallery, Provincetown, MA Solo
2010Edward HopperFondation de l'Hermitage, Lausanne Solo
2010Small and EverlastingACA Galleries, New York City, NY Group
2010Modern Life: Edward Hopper and His TimeWhitney Museum of American Art, New York City, NY Group
2010Made in USA. Arte Americano de la Philipps CollectionFundación MAPFRE, Madrid Group
2010The Adventure of Reality International RealismKunsthal Rotterdam, Rotterdam Group
2010Master American PrintsCraig F. Starr Gallery, New York City, NY Group
2010The Sea Around UsNassau County Museum of Art, Roslyn Harbor, NY Group
2010CrashGagosian Gallery, London Group
2010Collecting BiennialsWhitney Museum of American Art, New York City, NY Group
2009Edward HopperPalazzo Reale, Milan Solo
2009Edward Hopper & CompanyFraenkel Gallery, San Francisco, CA Solo
2008Edward Hopper's WomenSeattle Art Museum, Seattle, WA Solo
2008Western Motel. Edward Hopper and Contemporary ArtMuseumsquartier, Vienna Solo
2008Edward Hopper: Paper to PaintIndianapolis Museum of Art (IMA), Indianapolis, IN Solo
2008Edward Hopper EtchingsCraig F. Starr Gallery, New York City, NY Solo
2008Edward HopperThe Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL Solo
2007Edward HopperThe National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC Solo
2007Edward Hopper Painting: New AcquisitionPortland Museum of Art, Portland, ME Solo
2007Edward HopperMuseum of Fine Arts, Boston, Boston, MA Solo
2006Edward HopperWhitney Museum of American Art, New York City, NY Solo
2006Edward Hopper in CharlestonGibbes Museum of Art, Charleston, SC Solo
2005Edward Hopper in Four ActsAmon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, TX Solo
2004Edward HopperMuseum Ludwig, Cologne Solo
2004Edward HopperTate Modern, London Solo
2004Edward HopperMusée des Impressionnismes Giverny, Giverny Solo
2003Edward Hopper: The Paris YearsTyler Museum of Art, Tyler, TX Solo
2003Edward Hopper: The Paris YearsNevada Museum of Art NMA, Reno, NV Solo
2002Edward Hopper and Urban RealismSamuel P. Harn Museum of Art, Gainesville, FLSolo
2000Edward HopperHiroshima Museum of Art, Hiroshima Solo
2000Edward HopperTokyu Bunkamura Inc., Tokyo Solo
2000Edward HopperWhitney Museum of American Art, New York City, NY Solo
1999Edward Hopper: The WatercolorsSmithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC Solo
1997Edward HopperThe Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, NY Solo
1995Edward Hopper and the American imaginationWhitney Museum of American Art, New York City, NY Solo
1993Edward HopperGagosian Gallery , New York City, NY Solo
1992Edward Hopper 1882-1967Schirn Kunsthalle, FrankfurtSolo
1992Edward Hopper und die FotografieMuseum Folkwang Essen, Essen Solo
1989Edward HopperFundación Juan March, Madrid Solo
1989Edward HopperMusée Cantini, Marseille Solo
1988Edward Hopper: City, Country, TownThe College of William & Mary, Williamsburg, VA Solo
1987Edward Hopper: City, Country, TownUniversity of Iowa Museum of Art, Iowa City, IA Solo
1983Edward Hopper: Development of an American ArtistAspen Art Museum, Aspen, CO Solo
1981Edward Hopper: The Art and the ArtistThe Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL Solo
1981Edward HopperKunsthalle Düsseldorf, Dusseldorf Solo
1981Edward HopperHayward Gallery, London Solo
1975Edward Hopper: RetrospectiveUtah Museum of Fine Arts, Salt Lake City, UT Solo
1974Edward Hopper : paintings, prints, drawingsWhitney Museum of American Art, New York City, NY Solo
1972Edward Hopper WatercolorsKalamazoo Institute of Arts, Kalamazoo, MI Solo
1972Edward Hopper BequestThe Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Fort Worth, TX Solo
1972Edward HopperNorton Simon Museum of Art, Pasadena, CA Solo
1972Edward HopperOrange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach Solo
1971Edward Hopper: oils, watercolors, etchingsPennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA Solo
1971Edward Hopper: oils, watercolors, etchingsFarnsworth Art Museum, Rockland, ME Solo
1965Edward HopperSaint Louis Art Museum, Saint Louis, MO Solo
1964Edward Hopper RetrospectiveThe Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL Solo
1963The complete graphic work of Edward HopperWorcester Art Museum, Worcester, MA Solo
1963A Retrospective Exhibition Of Oils And Watercolors By Edward HopperThe University of Arizona Museum of Art, Tucson, AZ Solo
1960Watercolors by Edward Hopper : with a selection of his etchingsThe Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, CT Solo
1959Watercolors by Edward Hopper : with a selection of his etchingsThe RISD Museum, Providence, RI Solo
1950Edward Hopper retrospective exhibitionThe Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, MI Solo
1950Edward Hopper retrospective exhibitionMuseum of Fine Arts, Boston, Boston, MA Solo
1950Edward Hopper retrospective exhibitionWhitney Museum of American Art, New York City, NY Solo
1944Etchings by Edward HopperThe Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL Solo
1934Exhibition of Paintings by Edward HopperArts Club of Chicago, Chicago, IL Solo
1933Edward Hopper: Retrospective ExhibitionMuseum of Modern Art, New York City, NY Solo