Edward Hopper (July 22, 1882 – May 15, 1967) is one of the most beloved and paradigmatic artists of his generation. He created an uninflected oeuvre of deadpan, realist scenes of Americana. Sailing wide of isms there is nothing cutting edge or experimental about his approach.

Unlike his peers during the Great Depression and WWII he seemed to advocate no causes or calls for social justice. He depicted poignant figures seemingly alone and introspective. One interprets that as the persona of the artist conveying a thoughtful, melancholy view of American life that most viewers readily relate to.

He loved cinema and a sense of film noir inhabits his 1941 masterpiece Nighthawks. With characters stopping for a late night cup of joe and slice of pie it reads like a movie still. Similarly, we admire and empathize with the beautiful blonde dressed as an usherette lost in thought in a gilded movie palace.

In urban paintings he depicts a nude midinette in a simple apartment staring out the window. Even an unpopulated work Early Sunday Morning, 1930, has an implicit narrative quality. It is a main street view of how I recall small town America from the 1940s into the 1950s. That aura has long vanished but lingers in Hopper’s definitive period works.

There is a spare, protestant austerity to the work which is often most interesting for what it is not and refrains from revealing. He was trained in proletariat realism by Robert Henri who was a part of the Ashcan school which included John Sloan, Everett Shinn, William Glackens and others. Unlike them he was not drawn into socialism.

Being devoid of social justice content has proved to make the work more enduring. Work with strident political and class content undermines longevity. The social realism of the 1930s was rendered obsolete by the evolution of post war abstract expressionism. American Scene painters like Thomas Hart Benton and Grant Wood, or the evocative and raucous Reginald Marsh, were brushed aside as corny and dated by the mainstream critics and curators.

Today this long rejected work is coming back into the canon through a new generation of revisionist scholars and curators. In the cascading cycles of art history, old is new again.

Hopper’s reputation, however, never seems to have been laundered through the wash and dry of changed and evolving critical opinion. In the hearts and minds of American art, after years of struggle, by mid-career he was established and has remained entrenched.

On closer inspection there is much about the persona and work that is curious, contradictory, and quietly eccentric.

Early on, to earn a living, he was a freelance illustrator. It paid the bills but he hated this work. He made three trips to Paris where he created drab and dull cityscapes with a dark American palette. While he admired Manet and Degas he later stated never having heard of Picasso. In the City of Lights he kept to himself but sketched in cafes.

In 1912, Hopper traveled to Gloucester, to seek some inspiration where he painted Squam Light, the first of many lighthouse paintings.

Included in the legendary Armory Show of 1913 he sold his first painting Sailing (1911) for $250 to an American businessman Thomas F. Vietor. Hopper was then thirty-one. He continued to exhibit but it would be a decade before further sales.

In 1923 Hopper again summered in Gloucester. He was enticed there by the artist Leon Kroll who was a part of the Lanesville group of sculptors and painters. There was an established presence of artists in East Gloucester.

A century later this is the focus of a special exhibition. It is a highlight of Gloucester 400th  with a busy schedule of events.

What follows is the museum’s press release.

The Cape Ann Museum proudly announces the opening of “Edward Hopper & Cape Ann: Illuminating an American Landscape” in 2023, an exhibition of the critically acclaimed American artist during a turning point in his life and career when he came to Cape Ann from 1923-1928.

This major exhibition is the first dedicated to Hopper’s formative development on Cape Ann, marking the pivotal summer of 1923 when Edward Hopper and his future wife, Josephine “Jo” Nivison, visited Gloucester. Edward Hopper & Cape Ann opens on Hopper’s birthday, July 22, 2023, runs through October 16, 2023, and is presented in collaboration with the Whitney Museum of American Art, the major repository of the Hoppers’ work.

“This inaugural partnership with the Whitney Museum of American Art as a leading national institution is a first for the Cape Ann Museum,” said Cape Ann Museum Director Oliver Barker. “Edward Hopper & Cape Ann marks the centennial of the summer of 1923 when Edward Hopper created watercolors that earned his first critical acclaim and laid the foundation for future success as one of the greatest 20th century American landscape painters.”

The exhibition features 65 works including paintings, drawings, and prints brought together from the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, National Gallery of Art, The Philadelphia Museum of Art and 23 other institutions and private lenders to tell the story of Hopper’s formative years when he experimented with his painting technique, met his future wife, and embarked on a legendary career. The exhibition includes 57 works by Edward Hopper, seven by Jo Hopper, and one by their teacher Robert Henri.

Anderson’s House, 1926 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston Bequest of John T. Spaulding, 48.720 Photograph © 2023, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston © 2023 Heirs of Josephine N. Hopper / Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY

Italian Quarter, Gloucester, 1912 Whitney Museum of American Art, New York Josephine N. Hopper Bequest, 70.1214 Digital image © Whitney Museum of American Art / Licensed by Scala / Art Resource, NY © 2023 Heirs of Josephine N. Hopper / Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY

Freight Cars, Gloucester, 1928 Oil on canvas, 29 x 40 1/8 in. (73.66 cm x 101.92 cm) Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts Gift of Edward Wales Root in recognition of the 25th Anniversary of the Addison Gallery, 1956.7 Photo Credit: Addison Gallery of American Art © 2023 Heirs of Josephine N. Hopper / Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY

Jo Painting, 1936 Whitney Museum of American Art, New York Josephine N. Hopper Bequest, 70.1171 Digital image © Whitney Museum of American Art / Licensed by Scala / Art Resource, NY © 2023 Heirs of Josephine N. Hopper / Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY

The Mansard Roof, 1923 The Brooklyn Museum, New York Museum Collection Fund, 23.100 © 2023 Heirs of Josephine N. Hopper / Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY

Josephine Nivison Hopper (1883-1968), Church Towers, Gloucester, 1923 Whitney Museum of American Art, New York Bequest of Josephine N. Hopper Digital image © Whitney Museum of American Art / Licensed by Scala / Art Resource, NY © 2023 Heirs of Josephine N. Hopper / Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY

Gloucester Beach, Bass Rocks, 1923-24 Watercolor, 11 x 17 1/2 in. (27.9 x 44.4 cm) Private Collection Image courtesy Christie’s © 2023 Heirs of Josephine N. Hopper / Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY

Briar Neck, Gloucester, 1912 Whitney Museum of American Art, New York Josephine N. Hopper Bequest, 70.1193 Digital image © Whitney Museum of American Art / Licensed by Scala / Art Resource, NY N.B. The correct spelling of this local landmark is Brier Neck. © 2023 Heirs of Josephine N. Hopper / Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY

Portuguese Church in Gloucester, 1923 Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University Gift of Sheila H. Hearne in memory of William L. Hearne, Class of 1924, for the Frank and Rosa Rhodes Collection; 94.026.001 Image courtesy Johnson Museum

Tall Masts, 1912 Whitney Museum of American Art, New York Josephine N. Hopper Bequest, 70.1198 Digital image © Whitney Museum of American Art / Licensed by Scala / Art Resource, NY © 2023 Heirs of Josephine N. Hopper / Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY

Trawler, 1923-24 Whitney Museum of American Art, New York Josephine N. Hopper Bequest, 70.1092 Digital image © Whitney Museum of American Art / Licensed by Scala / Art Resource, NY © 2023 Heirs of Josephine N. Hopper / Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS),

Gloucester Harbor, 1912 Oil on canvas, 26 3/8 x 38 5/16 in. (67 x 97.3 cm) Whitney Museum of American Art, New York Josephine N. Hopper Bequest, 70.1204 Digital image © Whitney Museum of American Art / Licensed by Scala / Art Resource, NY © 2023 Heirs of Josephine N. Hopper / Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY

Cape Ann Granite, 1928 Oil on canvas, 29 x 40 1/4 in. (73.5 x 102.3 cm) Private Collection Image courtesy Christie's © 2023 Heirs of Josephine N. Hopper / Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY

Gloucester Mansion, 1924 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston Bequest of John T. Spaulding, 48.717 Photograph © 2023, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston © 2023 Heirs of Josephine N. Hopper / Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY

Hodgkin’s House, 1928 Oil on canvas, 28 x 36 in. (71.1 x 91.4 cm) Private Collection © 2023 Heirs of Josephine N. Hopper / Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY

House in Italian Quarter Smithsonian American Art Museum © 2023 Heirs of Josephine N. Hopper / Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY

This once-in-a-generation exhibition, and the accompanying 224-page catalogue being published by Rizzoli Electa, are curated by nationally recognized curator and former museum director, Elliot Bostwick Davis, PhD. “Despite painting in Gloucester in 1912 and in Maine for six more summers, Hopper initially struggled to find a distinctive artistic voice,” writes Davis. “Hopper understood that Gloucester, familiar from his earlier trip in 1912, was perhaps his last chance to make a name for himself as a painter at the age of 41. By 1923, he was supporting himself as an illustrator and etcher; his only painting sale had occurred over a decade earlier.”

Edward Hopper (1882-1967) visited Cape Ann initially at the invitation of his friend and fellow painter, Leon Kroll (1884-1974), and produced his first oil painting outdoors in the United States during that trip. The Whitney Museum is lending Hopper’s five oils painted in Gloucester in 1912, including Briar (sic) Neck, Gloucester (1912); Tall Masts (1912); Italian Quarter (1912); and Gloucester Harbor (1912). The exhibition will mark the first time these works have ever been shown together on Cape Ann.

 Hopper was seemingly drawn to Cape Ann for its ease by train from New York City and by the legendary light that captivated other artists – such as Fitz Henry Lane (1804-1865), William Morris Hunt (1824-1879), Winslow Homer (1836-1910), John Sloan (1871-1951), Theresa Bernstein (1890-2002), William Meyerowitz (1887-1981), and Stuart Davis (1894-1964) among others. On Cape Ann, Hopper decided to paint various maritime scenes and portrayals of sunlight on houses. 

In 1923, Josephine “Jo” Verstille Nivison (1883-1968) was an established artist, as well as an amateur actress and dancer, whose paintings had been accepted by the Brooklyn Museum, exhibited at prestigious Manhattan art galleries, and were included in a forthcoming exhibition in London and Paris. Although Hopper and Nivison knew each other from painting experiences and studies with artist and teacher Robert Henri, they met again in Gloucester and began painting together during early morning excursions where Nivison urged Hopper to paint with easy-to-transport watercolors instead of equipment-laden oils. Nivison’s beloved cat, Arthur, who traveled with her to Gloucester that summer, brought them together, when Hopper found him wandering Gloucester’s back streets and returned him.

Hopper took Nivison’s advice during their joint painting excursions. The result was Eastern Point Light (1923) followed by 17 more watercolors over eight weeks that summer including Deck of a Beam Trawler, 1923; Portuguese Church, Gloucester, 1923; House in Italian Quarter (1923); and The Mansard Roof (1923).

After Nivison and Hopper returned to New York in the fall of 1923, she lobbied for Hopper’s work to be included alongside her own in the second major biennial devoted to American watercolors at the Brooklyn Museum. The curators selected six of Hopper’s Gloucester watercolors and the Museum eventually purchased The Mansard Roof (1923) for $100. This first sale of a painting by Edward Hopper in over a decade was a major turning point in his career, thanks to Nivison and the influence of their time together on Cape Ann. 

 By 1924, Hopper hoped Nivison would return to Gloucester with him for another summer of painting. She wanted to return to Provincetown where she enjoyed the camaraderie of fellow artists and theatrical types. In the end, she agreed on one condition: that they marry that day, July 9, 1924. The wedding took place and the couple returned to Cape Ann for their honeymoon and another summer of painting together. They remained married for 43 years.

“Hopper gives us an extraordinary opportunity to tell Gloucester’s story as a significant and influential place for artistic inspiration and growth,” Barker said. “The exhibition in exploring this concept of place as a creative catalyst, thanks to Elliot Davis, also recasts Jo Nivison’s role of model and muse to the producer of Hopper’s distinctive style, from the time of their courtship on Cape Ann in 1923 to the last painting to leave his easel in 1965. It’s a remarkable story that we cannot wait to share.”

Cape Ann Museum’s exhibition follows the Whitney Museum’s Edward Hopper’s New York, which opened Oct. 19, 2022, and runs through March 5, 2023, featuring Hopper’s paintings around the city he called home for 60 years (1908-1967).

Another major aspect of the Cape Ann Museum exhibition will be the accompanying 224-page catalog, published by Rizzoli Electa and due out May 2 in hard and softcover editions. This publication, which shares the exhibit’s title, Edward Hopper & Cape Ann, tells the largely ignored but significant origin story of Edward Hopper’s years in and around Gloucester, Massachusetts – a period and place that imbued Hopper’s paintings with a clarity and purpose that had eluded his earlier work.  The book description reads: “the success of Hopper’s Gloucester watercolors transformed his work in all media and set the stage for his monumental career.”

This important partnership with Rizzoli Electa marks the first time that the Cape Ann Museum has sought an outside book publisher to design, produce, and distribute an exhibition catalog. “We could not be more thrilled with this significant collaboration and the beautiful edition Rizzoli has created,” Barker said. The book will be distributed nationally and internationally and is available at the Cape Ann Museum Store which is also the exclusive vendor of the soft cover edition.

Edward Hopper & Cape Ann will be on view at the Museum’s Downtown Campus in Gloucester and is accompanied by a robust six-part lecture series as well as a day-long symposium to be held on Saturday, September 30, 2023. Full lecture details and symposium speakers will be announced in March 2023.

In preparation for Edward Hopper & Cape Ann the Museum during the 2022-2023 school year has been working with every eighth grader on Cape Ann to create original student work returning Hopper’s gaze through their own windows. A View from My Window, on view April 1 – May 14, 2023, will incorporate panes of plexiglass from each student, creating a visual array of sites around Cape Ann as seen by the students who live there. And starting also in Spring 2023 the Cape Ann Museum will resume its regular schedule of walking tours of sites Hopper painted while here.

Timed- entry tickets will be required and go on sale at www.capeannmuseum.org on June 1, 2023. Admission, which includes both Edward Hopper & Cape Ann and general Museum entry is: Adults $23; Cape Ann Residents, Seniors, and Students: $18; Youth under 18: Free.   

Edward Hopper & Cape Ann is made possible with thanks to a visionary anonymous gift and with additional leadership support provided by: Jackie and J. J. Bell, John and Mollie Byrnes, Catherine and Peter Creighton, Henrietta Gates and Heaton Robertson, Ann Rogers Haley and John F. Haley Jr., Ann T. and John Hall, Janet and William Ellery James, Stephen Kaloyanides, Littlejohn Family Foundation, Susie and Stanley Trotman, and the Wyeth Foundation for American Art, among others. This exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and Humanities. In cooperation with the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, the major repository of Hopper’s work.