The Indianapolis Museum of Art has a new “paper to paint” exhibit of my favorite artist, Edward Hopper, showing how many sketches he made before actually doing the final work:
It makes it clear that despite his growing reputation, the iconic Hopper — creator of the 1942 classic “Nighthawks,” depicting a diner — didn’t just turn out his explorations of urban isolation with ease.
“Hopper used to stand in front of his (blank) canvases…and he’d think he’s never going to be able to do another work,” says Harriet Warkel, the IMA’s curator of American art. “And this is an artist who’s already famous, who already has gotten lots of awards, but he’s still worried. …So you know, artists are insecure too, even when they’re famous.”
It is always said that Hopper depicts isolation, but I’m not so sure. His subjects are often alone, or lost in themselves when around other people. But I would call that self-contained. The isolation comes from the point of view adopted by the artist. Just look at “Nighthawks,” his most famous work. He creates the sense of isolation by standing far away from the activity. You can’t even tell where the entrance of the diner is. That’s almost journalistic distancing.