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"Hopper Drawing: A Painter's Process" opens at Walker Art Center in Minneapolis
Edward Hopper, Study for Summertime, 1943. Fabricated chalk and graphite pencil on paper, 8 3/8 x 10 15/16 in. (21.3 x 27.8 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Josephine N. Hopper Bequest 70.458 Heirs of Josephine N. Hopper, licensed by Whitney Museum of American Art, N.Y.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN.- The Walker Art Center presents Hopper Drawing: A Painter’s Process, the first major exhibition to focus on the drawings and creative process of the iconic American artist Edward Hopper (1882–1967). While past exhibitions and publications have investigated Hopper’s work and artistic practice, this touring exhibition for the first time illuminates the centrality of drawing to Hopper’s work and allows a fresh look at many of his landmark paintings. Organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, the exhibition opened at the Walker on March 13, 2014 and will be on view through June 20, 2014 in the Target and Friedman Galleries.

Hopper Drawing: A Painter’s Process features more than two hundred works by the artist, including drawings, watercolors, and paintings, and is the result of in-depth curatorial research into the more than 2,500 works on paper by Hopper in the Whitney’s collection, many of which have never been seen. The works on view span the artist’s career, and include 22 of his best-known paintings— including Office at Night (1940) from the Walker’s collection—with their preparatory drawings and studies. In doing so, the exhibition illuminates how the artist transformed ordinary subjects—a city street, an office space, a house, a bedroom—into enduring images that are among the most celebrated in American art.

“The exhibition provides a rare opportunity to understand not only Hopper’s creative process, but also the remarkable influence that his environment had on his work,” said Siri Engberg, the coordinating curator for the Walker’s presentation. “The exhibition includes fascinating research into Hopper’s practice of synthesizing what he observed in the world around him with his own imagination. Drawing became the crucial link.” To illuminate this connection, the exhibition includes photographic documentation of the actual sites that inspired many of Hopper’s best-known works, and documentary films in the galleries.

Edward Hopper’s education as an artist was fairly traditional, with intensive early training in drawing—particularly rendering the nude human figure. This included life drawing classes at the New York School of Art, where he studied from 1900 to 1906 with the celebrated artist Robert Henri. In the 1920s, Hopper continued to hone his drawing skills at the Whitney Studio Club (a precursor to the Whitney Museum of American Art) near his Greenwich Village studio. His draftsmanship served Hopper throughout his career, especially after the 1930s, when he shifted from painting directly from nature to improvised subjects, deepening his drawing practice—often making 10-15 studies for a painting—as he imagined ideas for his oils.

The Walker’s presentation of the exhibition has been arrayed thematically and roughly chronologically, with focus on key paintings and their preparatory studies and related works. The presentation has been grouped into thematic areas:

Early Work, a section highlighting the artist’s first forays into the medium of drawing, from figure studies executed from life to illustrations, portraits, and preparatory studies.

Hopper in Paris, a section presenting work produced during Hopper’s early and formative travels to Paris and Europe between 1906 and 1910.

Hopper and the City, a section highlighting Hopper’s strong affinity for urban subject matter, particularly the environs of New York, where he lived and worked for most of his career.

The Interior, a section devoted to Hopper’s often intimate glimpses into the narratives played out in the inner life of the city.

The Road, a group of works featuring the roadside landscape that became one of the artist’s central motifs, reflecting the impact of the automobile on American life as well as Hopper’s experiences of landscapes seen in motion, framed by his car’s windows.

The Bedroom, the exhibition’s final section, features a group of works based on the theme of the solitary figure in a room, a subject that Hopper treated in every medium in which he worked during his career—from oil paint and watercolor to etching and drawing.

While exhibitions and scholarly publications have investigated many aspects of Hopper’s art—his prints, his illustrations, his influence on contemporary art and film, to name a few—this exhibition, for the first time, illuminates the centrality of drawing to Hopper’s work, and allow a fresh view on his landmark contributions to twentieth-century art. His drawings help to untangle the complex relationship between reality—what Hopper called “the fact”—and imagination or “improvisation” in his work. These sensitive and incisive responses to the world around him led to the creation of paintings that continue to inspire and fascinate.

Organizing curator: Carter E. Foster, the Steven and Ann Ames Curator of Drawing, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Walker Art Center coordinating curator: Siri Engberg, Senior Curator of Visual Arts.

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