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Edward Hopper

June 25 to October 17, 2010

As a matchless observer of American society and an attentive witness of the social upheavals the New Continent went through during the 20th century, Edward Hopper truly incarnates American painting of his era. Meditating on the teachings of the great masters of light (Vermeer), he very soon made a name for himself as a realist artist among the American avant-garde. Painting small towns and seemingly ordinary everyday scenes, Hopper focused on quiet, often deserted familiar places. His eerily silent pictures are steeped in elusive mystery.   Although often empty and bare, they are sometimes haunted by melancholy solitary figures, motionless as if frozen in time awaiting their fate. The chilly precision of brushwork and carefully constructed ´sets`, bathed in dramatic light, create an unsettling aura of strangeness.

Opening with a series of self-portraits of the artist, the show moves on to examine the decisive influence Hopper’s stay in Paris (1906-1910) had on his work, from his caricatures and views of Seine to his famous Soir bleu (1914), thus marking a turning-point in his career. His activity as a printmaker in the 1920s is spotlighted as well as his ‘classical’ period from the 1930s to the 1950s illustrating cityscapes (Pennsylvania Coal Town, 1947, Seven A.M., 1948) and rural landscapes (Cobb’s Barns, 1930-1933) representing everyday American life. A section devoted to eroticism reveals Hopper’s predilection for female nudes in Summer Interior (1909), New York Interior (1921) or the astonishing Girlie Show (1941) presented for the first time in Switzerland. His strikingly innovative way of ‘staging’ pictorial space, with shafts of stark light and an acute sense of composition – as in Sheridan Theater (1937) or Night Shadows (1921) – evoke his strong, fertile bond with the cinema. The intensity of his later works flooded with bright sunlight, such as Second Story Sunlight (1960) or A Woman in the Sun (1961), marks the peak of his career. A considerable number of sketches as well as a record book kept by the artist and his wife including many of the preparatory drawings for his oil paintings enhance the selection and shed new light on his modus operandi. A significant biographical and historical section completes the exhibition as well as a documentary film on the artist.

 Curator : Carter Foster, curator of drawings at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York