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ART/ARCHITECTURE – Edward Hopper

ART/ARCHITECTURE – Edward Hopper


Edward Hopper is a painter of gloomy paintings that don’t make us feel gloomy. Instead, they help us to recognize the loneliness that so often lies, at the heart of sadness. In his Automat women sits alone drinking a cup of coffee It’s dark outside, and judging by her hat and coat, it’s cold. The room is large, empty and brightly lit, the decor is functional, and she seems slightly self-conscious, and little a afraid. Perhaps, she’s not used to sitting alone in a public space something seems to have gone wrong, and the viewer is invited to invent stories for her of betrayal, or loss She maybe trying not let her handshake, as she takes the coffee cup to her lips, It might be eleven at night, on a dark February night, in North America Automat is a picture of sadness, and yet it is not a sad picture. There can be something enticing, even charming, about anonymous diners. The lack of domesticity, offers a relief, from what can be, the fullest comforts of home. It may be easier to give a way sadness here, than in a cozy living room with wallpapers, and framed photos. Home often appears to have betrayed Hoppers characters. Something has happened there, that forces them out in to the night, and on to the road. The 24 hour diner, the train station waiting room, and the motel, are all sanctuaries for those, who for sound reasons, have failed to find their place, in a normal world of relationships, or community. Hopper’s ability to portray solitude, came from his own familiarity with it. He was born in 1882, in a ship builders town, Upper Nyack, New York. He lived a nice, middle class childhood, as a son of a merchant. And, yet inside, Hopper often felt awkward, indeed a bit like an outsider. In one early portrait, we see him gazing, almost distrustfully, at the viewer. Hopper longed to be an artist, and yet his parents insisted, he trained an commercial art, to keep afloat financially. He hated it, and to escape, he took several trips to Paris, under the pretense of studying french art. But in truth, he didn’t feel a connection to the salons, he absorbs some of the impressionist, but forgot Picasso’s name. He preferred to be outdoors, watching children playing in the Luxembourg gardens, listening to concerts and –. or travelling up and down the Seine, by boat In 1913, when Hopper was 31, he settled in Greenwich Village, in New York, where he would stay for the rest of his life. This is where he discovered how crowded, and yet isolated, life could be in the city. The population of American cities was skyrocketing, and yet, they were inhabited by passing strangers, who were increasingly alienated from one another. Hopper would ride the L-train, and look down at, in his own words, dark glimpses of office interiors, that were so fleeting as to leave fresh and vivid impressions on my mind. In each room, a separate drama was unfolding, an unnoticed oblivious island, in the sea of people. Although Hopper painted a New York for over a decade, his paintings failed to sell, and he often struggled to find inspiration. Then in his early-forties, he met a beautiful social painter, named Josephine. Edward and Josephine took excursions to paint by the sea, they went to the movies, they went to the theatre, and eventually, they got married. Hopper was no longer, so alone. But, of course, as most of us discover in our relationships, Hopper’s marriage didn’t permanently end his feelings of isolation, and woe. He still felt lonely at times. He and his wife, couldn’t quite figure out their sex life, and she often seemed to prefer, the company of her cat. Hopper discovered that even, when somebody loves us very much, There is always some essential part of us, that remains alone. It is, this recognition that makes his paintings so compelling, and indeed, by addressing loneliness, the art can at it’s most therapeutic. Consoling us, and reassuring us that –, and sorrow are normal, and that we are neither strange nor shamefull, for experiencing them. Sad and lonely art, allows us as viewers, to witness an echo, of our own grieves and disappointments. And therefor, to feel less personally persecuted, and pursued by them. Hopper’s art helps us to notice, the landscapes of loneliness in our own lives. A side effect, of coming into contact with any great artist, is that we come more aware of the things that the painter would had been receptive to. Nowadays we’ve come to accustomed to what one might call a “hopperesque”, a quality found, not only in the North American places that Hopper visited, but anywhere in the developed world, where there are motels, and service stations, roadside diners, and airports, bus stations, and all night supermarkets. For example, service stations readily evoke Hopper’s famous “Gas”, painted thirteen years after “Automat”. In this painting, we see a petrol station on it’s own, in the impending darkness. The isolation is made poignant and enticing. The darkness that spreads like fog from the right of the canvas, contrast with the security of the station. Against the backdrop of Night in the Wild Woods, and the last outpost of humanity, a sense of kinship seems easier to develop, than in daylight in the city. Hopper loved the introspective mood that travelling often puts us in to. He liked painting the atmosphere inside half empty train carriages, making their way across the landscape. But we can stand outside our normal selves, and look over our lives in a way that we don’t, in more settled circumstances. We have all known the atmosphere inside Hopper’s car C No. 293 that perhaps we have not recognized it as well, as when Hopper has held the mirror up to it. After Hopper’s marriage, his professional life suddenly improved as well. He felt more creative, it was the era of the great depression, and yet his paintings began to sell. Critics rated, museums bought his work, and he received awards. Yet despite his succes, he remained deeply introverted, and instead of escaping his solitude, he embraced it. For decades, he turned down the awards, rejected the speaking opportunities, and lived simply, out of the public eye. He died in 1967, and yet his art remains, and retains the ability to help us to see, the loneliness in our own lives, from a wiser, and more mature perspective. Oscar Wilde, once remarked that there had been no fog in London, until Whistler painted it. There was of course lots of fog, it was just that it was harder to notice it’s qualities, without the example of Whistler, did direct our gaze. What was said of Whistler, we may well say of Hopper. That there were far fewer strangely haunting, and consolingly beautiful service stations, and train carriages, motels and dinets, before Hopper began to paint.

100 comments found

  1. I think Dr. Roxburgh is an actress, who specialises in voice work. She may actually be called Roisin. Hopefully The School of Life continue to give her commissions as I could listen to her for hours, similarly Judy Dench, Stephen Fry, George Harrison and Martin Freeman. Wonderful.

  2. wow loved this episode… I'd like to see some more of these about Francis Bacon or Vincent van Gogh 🙂

  3. Even when someone loves us very much, there is always some essential part of use that remains alone. One would be lucky if one could meet someone that matches intellectually, shared same passions and values. Therefore, its true – we are all lonely, it is only if we have time to realise it.

  4. hopper makes loneliness much sexier than i do, i'm a miserable sod on my own, and caught of guard im often frowning but whenever i see myself i pull dorky faces, i hardly ever look deep and brooding, at least not when im looking

  5. There's more to Hopper's paintings than mere composition–I love his delightful representation of light.

  6. I wish the art versions of this show where more like the philosophy and was only voice over. I would enjoy looking at the paintings and works of the artist or even photos or paintings of the artist them self. I feel distracted when viewing the narrator. I think her voice is fine but seeing her to me does not fit with the rest of the channels videos.

  7. this video was absolutely beautiful. You managed to create almost the same atmosphere Hopper did in his paintings through well-chosen background music, design and the hushed voice of this very intelligent woman. Your channel is a gift to this website, we can learn so much from you.

  8. Not to disregard what she is saying, but her voice is just so calming and the way she puts her words together is elegantly placed as well.

  9. I found a lot of the commentary in this video, some almost verbatim, in this 2004 article:
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/3616557/How-to-see-sadness-without-being-sad.html
    Please try to credit your sources properly.

  10. I often call him the window guy because of his obsession with windows or glasses, like he was into some serious voyeuristic ventures

  11. I think that you should do episode two of this. I think you should go into the actual compositions. Through the eyes of a painter. What did the critics say about his paintings. what colours did he use? He was aware of goethe for instance. None the less a good overview.

  12. For those who were looking for the name of the song on the background as i did. I've found it!
    It's Sergey Silvertone – With You Everywhere

  13. This really is my favorite of the series. Please revive this i love the way you guys explain and discuss these painters and their work 😀

  14. Edward Hopper, my favorite artist. Absolutely wonderful. Is it his art that I see on TCM's opening scene?

  15. It's cold and dark where I am seated… there's enough light to paint the world that I see in its dazzling mundane life. There's something about Hopperesque that pervades the atmosphere of everyday life; I have been a fan of his works post this incredible video by the school of life.

  16. this reminds me of nigella lawson's tv show, where the presenter is more noticibale than the subject they are presenting. i have no problems with that. you take some minutes to adjust, but after you're done with noticing her, she is actually really good explaining art.

  17. Among Hopper’s greatest paintings she evokes the first work of art humanity knew about, women, and she is truly a gorgeous intelligent woman.
    As many said before me (or perhaps a more proper word would be “wrote”) I could listen her talk all day long, without hesitation, and people, in the void of existence that is why art is so important to humanity.

  18. Wait. Has no one brought up the idea here that Hopper was gay? As a gay man I've resonated with his art for years now and listening to this mini-lecture juxtapose his art with his life so deftly, really focuses in on this question. I think he was most definitely, if not gay, then queer, and I would posit that that's the source, among so many other factors, of his unhappiness.

  19. I am always amazed at how art can articulate moods and emotions that I find so hard to explain in words. Art truly is one of things that makes life worth living.

  20. You are absolutely right about sad and lonely art and it's ability to console our own personal sorrows. Alot of art that I like has been disparaged as bleak and depressing by friends and lovers but it actually makes me feel better. It's a visible manifestation of the thoughts and memories that plague me when I'm too weary to fend them off and being able to see that someone else has contended with similar feelings to such a great extent to be able to capture them on canvas gives me heart.

  21. He captured the poignant beauty in being alone. Which is something I try to capture in my own artwork.

  22. I have been a huge Hopper fan ever since I saw the light and shadow patterns in his landscape art and even more so when gazing at pictures like Summertime and Automat where the emotions of the depicted individuals shine from each spot of the canvas. This is very well done. I love your voice, inner and outer beauty and dedication.

  23. cough copyright cough either you stole the first minute directly from am essay on tate.ie (the tate modern)website or they stole it from you ……..literally word for word , and you didnt even mention them in the info box ….shamefull

  24. All i am sure in my life is that art is my truly love 🇧🇷. His arts are so touching i feel such a deep connection since i saw one of them. I use an app called Dailyart. It is good to learn more about art but it is not so democratized in showing different natioalities painters…

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