The Fondation Beyeler’s 2020 spring exhibition will show works by Edward Hopper (1882–1967), one of the 20th century’s most important American painters. Hopper was born in Nyack, New York. After training as an illustrator, he studied painting at the New York School of Art until 1906. Next to German, French and Russian literature, the young artist found key reference points in painters such as Diego Velázquez, Francisco de Goya, Gustave Courbet and Édouard Manet.
The exhibition at the Fondation Beyeler will focus on Hopper’s iconic representations of the infinite expanse of American landscapes and cityscapes. To date, this aspect has rarely been highlighted in exhibitions devoted to Edward Hopper, yet it is key to understanding his work and its reception. With watercolors and oil paintings dating from the 1910s to the 1960s, the exhibition will provide an extensive and exciting overview of the multifaceted nature of Edward Hopper’s oeuvre.
Organized by the Fondation Beyeler in cooperation with the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, the major repository of Hopper’s work.
Please note: In keeping with safety and precautionary measures, the screening space for Wim Wenders’ 3D short film Two or Three Things I Know about Edward Hopper will remain closed until the end of May.
Edward Hopper’s representations of female figures arelargely based on his wife Josephine Nivison Hopper. Following their wedding in 1924, she served as a model for all of her husband’s female figures, her distinctive features always altered or abstracted. In Hopper’s images, people are mostly represented alone or in pairs. Cape Cod Morning shows a woman in profile. She stands in a bay window, physically shielded from the outside world by the architecture. Her posture is tense: both hands on a table, she leans forward and looks intently outside. Her gaze is directed toward something beyond the pictorial space. This focus on events that remain invisible to the viewer is typical of Hopper’s figures. In this painting, it helps him create tension and an eerie atmosphere.
Hopper’s painting of a gas station is among his most important images. The composition is first and foremost a sophisticated orchestration of interpenetrating lighting moods: on the one hand, dusk, the transition from day to night, which defines the work’s atmosphere; on the other hand, artificial lighting in the gas station’s windows, projecting patches of light outside the building, its source hidden from view. The unfathomability of the forest that lines the road leading into the darkness
beyond contrasts with three gas pumps standing in a regular row. Their perspectival foreshortening reinforces the sense of being “sucked” into the picture’s depth. Pegasus, the poets’ winged horse, symbol of flights in fantasy, seems to rise above the forest. How small and insignificant the pump attendant seems by comparison. While his precise actions remain unclear, he does not seem to be taking part in the flow of thoughts set into motion by this image.
Edward Hopper painted Second Story Sunlight seven years before his death during his last period of work, in which the perception of light became his main subject. In this picture, too, the houses’ facades are drenched in gleaming sunlight. On the second story of the middle house, a woman sunbathes in a bikini, sitting on a balcony railing. A second figure next to her appears to have momentarily dropped the newspaper to enjoy the sunlight on her face. With his depiction of light, the painter creates an impressive interplay of bright and dark. While the colors glow in the intense sunlight, the shadows close by seem ominous. The dark backdrop of the forest brings into stark relief the light-flooded houses’ angular shapes.
Railroad Sunset shows the passage from day into night, an evening sky displaying striking light and color mood. The image is built along horizontal bands. Above the gently undulating green hills, the sky is bathed in fiery red, merging subtly into orange, greenish yellow and blue. In the dusky foreground, a small signalman’s house and telegraph pole bear lonely witness to civilization. In between, railway tracks span the full width of the image, suggesting the vastness of the landscape beyond. After their wedding in 1924, Josephine Nivison and Edward Hopper undertook several transcontinental train journeys to Colorado and New Mexico. In 1929, the year this painting was produced, they traveled from New York to Charleston, South Carolina, and to Massachusetts and Maine. Yet, rather than specific places, the painting represents the vastness and emptiness of American landscapes. Rather than a field survey, Railroad Sunset is a poetic, carefully composed memento.
The painting shows a coastal landscape on Cape Ann, Massachusetts. Sloping green pastures are interspersed with massive granite rocks that throw slanting shadows, creating dramatic light effects. The blue sky above is streaked with cirrus clouds. The terrain falls sharply to the right, opening a deepening view that gives a sense of the ocean beyond. Hopper produced this oil painting
during his stay on Cape Ann in the summer of 1928. Over the period of two months, he also produced numerous watercolors of the local landscape. Cape Ann Granite illustrates Hopper’s interest in the corporeality of landscape and the intensity of individual perception. The immediacy of light and color gives the painting great expressiveness, allowing nature to come into its own as an important source of Hopper’s imaginative power and of his personal vision of American landscape.
Edward Hopper in our Art Shop
Edward Hopper. A Fresh Look at Landscape – Catalogue of the 2020 exhibition The catalogue gathers together all the paintings, watercolors and drawings from the 1920s to 1960s on display in the exhibition and supplements them with essay foccused on the subject of depicting landscape. Order now
Edward Hopper. A to Z – Everything you've always wanted to know about Hopper In this wonderful, simpley structured A-Z book, Ulf Küster pursues themes which say a great deal about the painter and his interests. and yet he never loses sight of the artist and the necessary distance to his inimitable pictures. Order now
Edward Hopper – Le Bateau a voile – Assemble a Masterpiece The idea to cutting a picture into small pieces and then having fun trying to reassemble it again, is over 250 years old. In our digital present, too, jigsaw puzzles have lost none of their appeal, either for children or for adults. Doing a jigsaw of one of the works of Edward Hopper is a particularly enjoyable way of getting to know a painting in detail.
A further highlight of the exhibition will be the screening of Two or Three Things I Know about Edward Hopper, a 3D short film by renowned director and photographer Wim Wenders (Wings of Desire; Don’t Come Knocking). Inspired by Edward Hopper’s “American spirit”, the film will be shown in spectacular 3D projection.
The movie was made possible thanks to the support of BNP Paribas Swiss Foundation and LUMA Foundation.
Trailer "Two or Three Things I Know about Edward Hopper" by Wim Wenders