De Hirsh Margules, Mother Ann Lighthouse, Eastern Point, Gloucester, 1946. Gouache on paper. Gift of Jean M. Horblit, 2002. [Acc. #2002.004.002]
GLOUCESTER — “Edward Hopper & Cape Ann: Illuminating an American Landscape” is the summer’s big show up here; the Cape Ann Museum will open the exhibition next week, produced in partnership with New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art, on Hopper’s brief time spent perched on this rocky outcrop of Atlantic coastline.
“Edward Hopper’s New York,” the Whitney’s showcase last fall of Hopper’s calculated, chilly visions of his hometown every which way — its bridges and tunnels, high-rises and tenements, apartments and lunch counters — set a standard for dispassionate observation of urban life as the city transformed into a modern megalopolis at midcentury. When he traveled, it was neither far nor wide; but Gloucester was an early candidate for him and his wife, the painter Jo Nivison Hopper, to call home away from home. Lured north from the city by Leon Kroll, an important peer, Hopper and Nivision hemmed and hawed and eventually settled on Cape Cod, where they spent summers painting for more than 30 years.
With or without them, Gloucester’s role in American art history is legendary; Hopper and Nivison traveled a well-worn path to Cape Ann, where a near superhighway of American Modernism had been established between Manhattan and Gloucester’s craggy shores. But the town’s role in American art history was seeded centuries before, making it fertile ground for a pair of young painters to seek inspiration and community. In brief, here’s a look at some of the town’s most notable creatives, and what drew them north.