Exhibit reveals intrigue behind painter Hopper's US realism

A new exhibition in Switzerland of the works of iconic US painter Edward Hopper offers an unusual chance to discover the intrigue behind his vivid paintings.

Sometimes branded an American realist, Hopper's artistry with light, colour and contrast coincided with the birth and development of the film industry in the early to mid 20th century as it moved from black and white silents to Technicolor.

Yet, as the 160 works assembled by New York's Whitney Museum of American Art and the Hermitage Foundation in the Swiss city of Lausanne reveal, he was also influenced by Europe, especially stays in Paris between 1906 and 1910.

Equally, the carefully-constructed urban and rural scenes of Hopper's native East Coast that made his fame after the 1930s drew on memory and were often fictional scenes that flirted with the abstract.

Carter Foster, curator of drawings at the Whitney Museum, has juxtaposed Hopper's detailed planning sketches against oil paintings, and brought in the lesser known etchings, water colours and illustrations that were his livelihood.

"This is not an exhibition of Hopper's greatest works, it's deeper than that. You see the drawings and the way his style develops step-by-step more than in some big retrospectives of his work," said Foster.

Icons of Americana such as the nocturnal street corner bar in "Nighthawks", airy wooden-housed summers of "Second Story Sunlight" are on show in Lausanne, along with interior scenes and solitary characters - especially women.

"We use the adjective 'Hopperesque' in America, it's a well known term and it basically describes atmosphere and mood," said Foster.

Yet, early works resorted to subdued colour and were inspired by French painters Degas and Toulouse Lautrec, while a fascination for Dutch master Vermeer's use of light is evident in Hopper's self-portraits.

Hopper's stoical American figures were also preceded by more lively French 'joie de vivre' in the 1914 "Soir Bleu" and his caricatures.

"In a way if you look at him carefully he's not so American, he's more European than a lot of American artists," said Foster.

"I think he was much more influenced by Europe than most of his peers, especially at the beginning of the century."

Hopper's etchings already played with light and shadows, which became a hallmark of his career, and some early 20th century oil paintings dabbled with grayscale rather than colour.

Frederic Maire, a former director of the Locarno film festival in Switzerland, believes that visual quality created a bond between Hopper and the film world.

"From a cinematic point of view you can see the proximity, in terms of the light, the urban atmosphere, with 'film noir' thrillers," he said.

Maire's Swiss cinema archive has organised screenings of 17 Hopperesque films from 1946 to 2005, including Alfred Hitchcock's 'Psycho', Jim Jarmusch's 'Stranger than Paradise', Robert Rossen's 'The Hustler', Bob Rafelson's 'The Postman Always Rings Twice' and David Lynch's 'The Straight Story'.

Foster insists that Hopper's artistry matured faster than film did.

"So did he influence cinema, did cinema influence him? I think he had a bigger influence on later film, on film of the 50s, 60s and 70s because by then he was popular as an artist, his work was very well known," he explained.

Hopper's clarity is worthy of a snapshot and the apparent authenticity extends to keeping foreground distractions like a tree or the parapet of a balcony in a painted scene.

However, a closer look betrays flaws and the artist's attempt to toy with reality.

Shadows fall at conflicting angles, while detail from his sketches is watered down on canvas.

"He's not a realist, he's not trying to paint reality, he really isn't," said Foster, explaining that Hopper's initial visual impact serves to draw in the viewer.

"You look at the painting and understand it initially as one thing. Then you start to try to make it add up and you look at it more carefully, and it makes you realise that it's not a transcription of anything real."

The exhibition at the Hermitage runs until October 17, when the bulk of the works will return to the Whitney. The New York museum inherited Hopper's estate when his wife died a year after him in 1968.

Web link to museum: http://en.fondation-hermitage.ch/

Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv'The Last Kingdom' embraces politics, religion, warfare, courage, love and loyalty, say creators
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m

film
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips

music
News
peopleThe Game of Thrones author said speculation about his health and death was 'offensive'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The new film will be shot in the same studios as the Harry Potter films

books
Arts and Entertainment
Duncan Bannatyne left school at 15 and was still penniless at 29

Bannatyne leaves Dragon's Den

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The French economist Thomas Piketty wrote that global inequality has worsened

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant and Benedict Cumberbatch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck plays a despondent Nick Dunne in David Fincher's 'Gone Girl'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty (L) and Carl Barât look at the scene as people begin to be crushed

music
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Caral Barat of The Libertines performs on stage at British Summer Time Festival at Hyde Park

music
Arts and Entertainment
Ariana Grande and Iggy Azalea perform on stage at the Billboard Music Awards 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Zina Saro-Wiwa

art
Arts and Entertainment
All-new couples 'Come Dine With Me'

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Black Sabbath's Ozzy Osbourne
musicReview: BST Hyde Park, London
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Gamble and Amy Hoggart star in Almost Royal burning bright productions
tvTV comedy following British ‘aristos’ is accused of mocking the trusting nature of Americans
Arts and Entertainment
Sassoon threw his Military Cross into the Mersey
booksAn early draft of ‘Atrocities’ shows the anti-war sentiment was toned down before publication
Arts and Entertainment
Actors and technicians on the march against changes made by Hollande
theatreOpening performances of the Avignon theatre festival cancelled as actors and technicians walk out
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West performed in a chain mail mask at Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park
Rapper booed at Wireless over bizarre rant
Arts and Entertainment

They're back, they're big – and they're still spectacularly boring

film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
    Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

    Hollywood targets Asian audiences

    The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
    Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

    Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

    Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
    Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

    Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

    Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
    10 best girls' summer dresses

    Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

    Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
    Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

    Westminster’s dark secret

    Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
    Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

    Naked censorship?

    The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
    Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

    Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

    As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
    Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

    David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

    Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil