“Sometimes talking to Eddie is just like dropping a stone in a well, except that it doesn’t thump when it hits bottom,” his wife, Jo, once said.
In her diary, she kept meticulous notes about his works in progress. Those included their lifetime of domestic battles, some of them physical.
Dropping her own career as an artist, she promoted and managed Edward’s.
She posed for him. She came up with names for many of his paintings.
And although it went against her personality, she adopted this reclusive lifestyle in Greenwich Village. They lived together for 40 years until his death in 1967.
Biographers focus on their troubled marriage, but when the Whitney Museum set up a large exhibit of preparatory artwork Hopper created on his way to mature canvases, many were signed, dedicated to “My wife, Jo.”
His artwork too is full of contradictions.
A lot of people love looking at Hopper’s work as if he’s a more painterly. A sort of Norman Rockwell, a realist documenting the world he found around him.
Not so, according to Hopper.
In 1953, he made a statement for the journal, Reality:
“Great art is the outward expression of an inner life in the artist, and this inner life will result in his personal vision of the world. No amount of skillful invention can replace the essential element of imagination. One of the weaknesses of much abstract painting is the attempt to substitute the inventions of the human intellect for a private imaginative conception.”
Art, then, is a subjective abstraction, but it needs recognizable objects. So much for illustrations.
In fact, Edward Hopper fans frequently like him because they mistake his paintings for something they are not. Nighthawks is a good example.
In this painting, Hopper anchors his view from the darkened street to a lunch counter. It’s the middle of the night on an otherwise abandoned corner in New York City.
The image has been popularly repurposed as Boulevard of Broken Dreams.
In the new, imagined version, an artist sees the diner as a hangout for lost icons from pop culture, replacing Hopper’s figures. There’s Elvis Presley working the counter as a soda jerk. Meanwhile, James Dean, Humphrey Bogart and Marilyn Monroe hang out on the stools.
American idols pictured as lost souls, romanticized after death.
But Hopper intended it as a place populated by predators, not deceased Hollywood legends.
About the Cats in Edward Hopper’s Window
When Deborah Julian decided to bring Edward Hopper, one of her favorite artists, into Famous Artists Cats, she picked a theme that’s probably more prevalent than any other in Hopper’s pictures: windows.
Hopper’s subjects lean out of windows, gaze dreamily through them and are exposed in them. Shades are raised, dramatizing accents between inner and outer lives. Most of the time, he sets them up like furniture, there to suggest something, but not active.
Cats, of course, are always naked, except for bizarre holiday rituals, and no window is incidental to a cat.