Saturday, September 15, 2007

Edward Hopper, American Icon

Early on, I knew that Edward Hopper was my favorite artist. For Christmas when I was in the fifth grade, one of my presents was Masterpiece, the art auction game from Parker Brothers. I still have the game, and every now and then we pull it out of mothballs and play it with the kids. It’s fun, but not a lot of strategy is involved. Essentially, depending on where you land on the game board, you bid for a painting which has been assigned a value that is hidden from the players (ranging from “Forgery” to “$1,000,000). At the end of the game, you add the value of your paintings to the amount of your cash on hand, and not surprisingly, the person with the most is the winner.

I didn’t know it at the time, but all of the paintings in the game are from the Art Institute of Chicago. Quite a few famous artists are represented, including Rembrandt, Renoir, Cassatt, Picasso, Whistler, Wood, etc. But my favorite was always “Nighthawks,” without question Hopper’s most famous painting, and most brilliant depiction of city life. It was a classic case of my not knowing how to define great art, but knowing what I liked. And years before I discovered Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, the noir quality of Hopper’s work resonated with me.

And still does. The walls of my office at work are adorned with Hopper prints, and at work and at home I have a book of Hopper’s works. In 2006, I was lucky enough to see “Nighthawks” in person, while attending a conference in Chicago. I missed part of the conference that day, but it was worth it.

And now, a Hopper exhibit has just left Boston, and is opening at the National Gallery of Art. Hopper may be on the verge of becoming more famous than ever; certainly more famous than he was in life. It is recognition well deserved. If anyone deserves to be known as an American Icon, it is Edward Hopper.

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