He studied under Robert Henri, who encouraged him to paint scenes from everyday life in a realistic manner.After a couple of trips to Europe he was interested in Degas and Manet’s depictions of urban life and These artists influenced him for many years. But unlike Manet, he strove to banish brushstrokes from his canvas, working in a very realistic manner. In Queensborough Bridge he has worked with atmospheric perspective with things getting fainter in the background and brushstrokes can be imagined. In Lighthouse Hill, fourteen years later, he worked with exactitude and a very strong source of light.
He always managed to create scenes of tension and eeriness. His clearly outlined forms, the strong source of light and the cropped composition helped create this eerie stillness in his paintings. His images of buildings without unnecessary detail were either deserted or with just a few figures captured in a tension-laden situation.
He made many sketches on the spot which he developed into one drawing and then went on to paint this without an exact concept – scraping and repainting until he was satisfied. This process of improvisation brought out more of what he wanted to say. These paintings could take even a year to be finished.
I found that his paintings have a theatrical element as they are quite dramatic. By omitting and leaving things unsaid he created a sense of high suspense. There is something happening and his images are frozen in a moment, but chunks of narrative are missing. These vacuums occupy my imagination as I try to still my curiosity and fill in the blanks. The less one includes, the more compelling and encapturing. This could be an interesting approach for me – create emptiness and thus room for imagination.
But how exactly did he create this? Although his scenes are bathed in a strong light, I notice that he often draws the eye into a region of darkness. Does this induce this sense of fear, loneliness and despair which pervades his paintings?
His figures are mostly placed off Center looking at a distant place where the Viewer cannot follow. His figures hardly ever communicate with each other – they are all deeply immersed in their own worlds, alienated from the rest.
Even in his paintings of couples there is a deep sense of Alienation or disconnectedness.
Looking at his desolate buildings, one tends to peep in through the windows at the people inside and imagine what they are doing. The viewer uses imagination to find the narrative. What is going on? Curiosity is awakened, something is happening and we are caught in the moment. Everything is cloaked in a blanket of emptiness and silence.
I like the strong sources of light which he often uses and the fact that he either omits figures altogether or uses them sparsely and that they are sans facial features. The figures seen through windows makes one feel like a voyeuer. I think I could try using a strong source of light leading towards darkness and see what it does to my style of painting.
All Images of Hopper’s paintings kind courtesy of http://www.edward hopper.net accessed on 4.12.2105