Grand Palais in Paris is putting on an incredible show of one of America’s most famous 20th century artists: Edward Hopper. An in depth expose of his work and his ideals with a new emphasis on the European themes that so strongly influenced his work can be seen. The emotional intensity of his vision charges through his art and gives it a unique and dynamic quality. Moreover the exhibition also ambitiously displays alongside Hopper’s works many illustrious and beautiful Impressionist paintings by the likes of artists such as Manet, Degas and Pissarro.
Edward Hopper was born in 1882 and until he was 42 he earned his living as an advertising illustrator. Hopper visited Paris three times in his lifetime – in 1906, 1909 and 1910- and he became an avid Francophile, enchanted especially by Paris and its cafes and boulevards and by the French scene. He learnt to adopt Impressionist techniques in his work and he particularly liked three artists: Albert Marquet, Vermeer and Degas, whose influences can be seen in his work. We see in the exhibition three paintings by Marquet, all of which figure views of bridges with muted colours, clever perspectives and fluid objects. In Vermeer, Hopper admired his clever use of light – something that became an essential element of Hopper’s own work. It is not until about half way through the exhibition that we start to see Hopper’s paintings - before this are the European paintings that so influenced him. In ‘American Style’, definitely one of my favourite Hopper paintings we see how a house rises out of the middle of nowhere, uprooted from the ground by a track. There are no human people in the picture and there is a uniform blue background which helps to create its eerie atmosphere, suffused with an out of this world stillness. Hopper excelled at the geometry of landscape, seen for example in his painting ‘Lighthouse Hill, painted in 1927. His use of light, inspired by Vermeer cries out to his audience.
Hopper was not a prolific artist and only produced about 100 paintings in his lifetime : most of which, amazingly, figure in this collection of his works.He was one of the first major American artists of the twentieth century to entertain an international reputation. And the Grand Palais does justice to this reputation and to his mastery of his subject. It is well worth a visit.
The exhibition should not be missed, by Larissa Woolf, Arts Editor, www.VisitMuseums.com