Hopper Drawing: A Painter’s Process

One of the current exhibitions at the Dallas Museum of Art is Hopper Drawing: A Painter’s Process. If you enjoy Edward Hopper‘s works and style, you will most likely enjoy this exhibition. This show highlights how well planned and meticulous Hopper was before he even put brush to medium. 

At the beginning of the exhibition, Hopper’s artistic education was featured. Like many young artists, Hopper did a number of self portraits since he had no models. Only having seen or remembered him as an older man, I enjoyed seeing the younger version done by his own hand. The next set of drawings were a number of nudes he did while in school as well. His wife was his model in some of these and I was impressed with his rendering of the human form.

The first painting shown I observed was Summertime. I was amazed at how much the final painting differed from all of the drawings Hopper sketched prior to painting. This was true in most of the works in the exhibition. In Summertime, the facade of the building, the stairs, and the woman herself varied greatly from the pre-painting drawings. The woman changed from a lady in a modest suit at the top of the stairs to one in a see-through dress standing at the bottom of the stoop in full sunlight.

Summertime, Edward Hopper, 1943, oil on canvas, 29 1/8 x 44 in.,
Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington, Delaware

Even though some of the more famous paintings were color prints of the originals (Nighthawks being one of these), the number of and details in the drawings are fascinating, and seeing the final outcome of what had to be days and weeks of study by Hopper was equally fascinating. I thought the curator of the exhibit did an excellent job of representing the various iconography of Hopper’s in the show.
When Hopper procured a decent camera, his car became an adjunct studio. He would spend hours driving by certain buildings and take photos in different light at different times of the day, including nighttime. Also, many of his paintings are done from the perspective of being on a commuter train and passing by buildings. He could see different vignettes from daily life only seen from a passing train and captured some of these. Apparently, he carried a very small sketchbook with him. Once he was back in the studio, he would draw or sketch his ideas very roughly and then later in a very detailed fashion before painting.

Following are some of the Nighthawks drawings:

–These drawings were done by Edward Hopper in 1941 or 1942 and are fabricated chalk and
charcoal on paper. These reside at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City. Hopper’s wife,
Josephine, died 10 months after Hopper died in 1967. She bequeathed his works to the
Whitney Museum and these included more than 2,500 drawings.

Nighthawks, Edward Hopper, 1942, oil on canvas, 33 1/8 x 60 in., 
Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois