De Hirsh Margules, Mother Ann Lighthouse, Eastern Point, Gloucester, 1946. Gouache on paper. Gift of Jean M. Horblit, 2002. [Acc. #2002.004.002]
Buying his first car in 1927 indirectly changed Edward Hopper’s career. With the newfound mobility through their secondhand vehicle, he and his wife, artist Josephine “Jo” Nivison, had the freedom to travel across New England and spent many summers in Gloucester, MA where he found a quaint alternative to downtown New York’s bustle. The artist’s transformative seasonal escapades in the Cape Ann town is the subject of an ambitious exhibition at Cape Ann Museum, titled Edward Hopper & Cape Ann: Illuminating an American Landscape, which opens on Hopper’s birthday, July 22nd.
Following the success of the Whitney Museum of American Art’s exhibition Edward Hopper’s New York and the Exhibition on Screen’s documentary Hopper, An American Love Story, the exhibition promises a version of the artist distilled from the experience of a particular place. The checklist’s sixty-five paintings, drawings, and prints have been collected on loan from twenty-eight institutions that include the Whitney, Brooklyn Museum, and Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
New York, where Hopper lived most of his life, was central to the Whitney show, his observations within the city’s skyrocketing transformation illustrating a contemplative extrovert. Cape Ann Museum’s presentation chronicles an artist who found solace in staggered visits to a locale dramatically different than Manhattan’s skyscraper-clad blocks stomped by fast-paced pedestrians. Hopper’s themes of detachment and ennui therefore resonate less explicitly but rather more given and native in his watercolors and oil paintings of abandoned streets, silent sail boats, and houses with unlit windows. Loneliness feels organic, and reverie, commonplace. “New England towns like Gloucester were microcosms of what was happening in America with tightly-knit new immigrants from Italy or Portugal,” told the show’s curator Elliot Bostwick Davis to Art New England. The museum’s director Oliver Barker added: “We have the unique opportunity to tell a story based on a place, surrounded by the artist’s creative catalysts—it’s a story of America in the 20th century underscored by a place of commerce, society, and change.”