Lumen de Lumine
Holland Cotter is the fine, always stimulating, art critic of The New York Times. In today’s paper he reviews an exhibiton of the work of Edward Hopper, opening Sunday at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts.
Here’s how the review begins:
A certain slant of light was Edward Hopper’s
thing. And he made it our thing, hard-wired it into our American
brains: white late-morning light scraping across a storefront;
twilight, plangent with heat and regret, settling over a city; slabs of
late-night lamplight chilling the walls of Lonely Hearts Hotels
Hopper once said that, as an
artist, the only thing he ever aspired to do was to paint “sunlight on
the side of a house,” and that, in essence, is all he did. Is this an
accomplishment weighty enough to support an “American master” title?
Sometimes, yes; often, no, at least on the evidence of “Edward Hopper,”
an exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts here.
In an insightful comment, Cotter sees Hopper, who grew up in Nyack, New York, as the heir to the 19th century Hudson River School tradition. But in Hopper’s case the play of light, which so intrigued him, is often refracted through Depression grittiness and Hollywood shtick.
But, at its best, left to be its luminous self, it seems to suggest a source beyond itself.
The last painting in the exhibition is Hopper’s late “Sun in an Empty Room.”
Here is Cotter’s comment:
Done in 1963, four years before Hopper’s death, it is what it says:
an image of contained space. There’s a window; the trees outside it
look wind-whipped, but you can’t hear the wind. Inside is all blank
walls and wheat-and-honey-colored sunlight, the two things Hopper loved
best and felt comfortable with. He doesn’t strain for a story here, or
a sentiment, or skill, or completion, which all but the best of his art
tries too hard for. Maybe that’s why this is the least gimmicky
painting in “Edward Hopper,” and the only happy one, and the most