Autumn in Vermont: Hopper Was Here

From the window of the upstairs guest room — my writing place — in our hillside home in South Royalton, Vermont, I look out over our field and trees to the rolling hills on the horizon.  The view constantly changes, light and shadows flowing  with the movement of sun and clouds across the sky as the day progresses from twilight to dusk. 

From the window of the upstairs guest room on Wagon Wheels Farm, Edward and Jo Hopper looked out over another South Royalton hill — Jigger Hill, or “Bob Slater’s Hill,” as Edward dubbed it.  He recorded his fascination with the changing light and shadows in a watercolor, a striking study of contrasting views, near and far.


Edward Hopper, Bob Slater’s Hill, 1938. Watercolor on paper, 13-1/2 x 19-1/2″. Huntington Museum of Art, West Virginia. Gift of Ruth Woods Dayton, 11967.1.132.



Artist Philip Koch wrote a wonderful blog piece about this painting. I’m convinced that Philip is able to channel Hopper, and so I urge you to read his insightful observations; click here and scroll down to “Hopper the Activist.”   (Also take this opportunity to look at Philip’s own extraordinary work, Hopper-related and otherwise.)

In Bob Slater’s Hill and others of the Vermont watercolors, Hopper captured the particular shade of yellowish-green that’s a harbinger of fall in Vermont. It’s a fleeting hue, and I’ve not yet been able to get it with my camera, despite many autumn treks to Hopper’s viewpoint. I’m always a bit too early (the hillside’s still green) or a bit too late (the hue is moving toward full-fledged-fall color).  My latest attempt is close, though. This was taken on September 23, just about 75 years to the day since Hopper last gazed upon Bob Slater’s hill.

Vermont & New Hampshire, Sept 2013 097


Jigger Hill, South Royalton, Vermont. Photo by
Bonnie Tocher Clause, September 2013.




 Vermont & New Hampshire, Sept 2013 010


This time of year the nights are cool and frosty.  When we wake up we’re inside a cloud, but the fog burns off by midday, and then it’s warm enough to bask in the sun on the deck.  The skies have been a deep, bright blue, a Maxfield-Parrish-like backdrop for the colors of the changing leaves, which have now almost reached their zenith of brilliance.



At the end of the day, as the sun dips low on the horizon and the shadows lengthen, the colors intensify — a last hurrah before darkness sets in.  I can’t stop looking — and, apparently, neither could Mr. Hopper.

Vermont & New Hampshire, Sept 2013 105View from Ducker Road, looking south toward Rte 110, South Royalton, Vermont.
The curving road mimics the bend in the First Branch of the White River,
hidden by the trees. Photo by Bonnie Tocher Clause, September 2013.




Hopper in Vermont: Next Stops, Manchester and South Burlington

I’ll be talking about my book, Edward Hopper in Vermont, and showing slides of Hopper’s works in two Vermont locations in October:

Sunday, October 6, MANCHESTER, VT
Southern Vermont Arts Center, 2:00 p.m.

Monday, October 7, SOUTH BURLINGTON, VT
Elder Education Enrichment Program, Variety Series #1, 2:00 p.m.

Clause_FNL_web.jpgI’ll be happy to sign copies of the book that readers bring to these events. Edward Hopper in Vermont is available through your preferred vendor — and of course I urge you to patronize your nearest independent bookseller!

Bonnie Tocher Clause, Edward Hopper in Vermont
University Press of New England, 2012


Cover image: Edward Hopper (1882-1967) painted First Branch of the White River in 1938 while staying on a farm in South Royalton, Vermont. This painting (watercolor over graphite, 55.2 x 68.3 cm) is in the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

224 pp., 47 illus. (21 color), 6 x 9″
Hardcover, $35.00 • 978-1-61168-328-8
Ebook, $29.99 • 978-1-61168-329-5

Edward Hopper in New Hampshire

On Thursday, 26 September, Edward Hopper and I will cross the Connecticut River into New Hampshire.  I’m giving a special lecture and slide presentation for ILEAD — the Institute for Lifelong Education at Dartmouth — on the campus in Hanover.  It’s at 3:00 p.m. in Room 100 of Dartmouth’s Life Sciences Center, and all are welcome. You can find further details and a flyer with a location map on the ILEAD website.

250-sota-bookCopies of my book, Edward Hopper in Vermont (University Press of New England, 2012), will be available for purchase, thanks to the Norwich Bookstore, and I’ll be happy to sign and inscribe a copy for you (or for your friends…the book is a great gift who anyone who loves Hopper and / or the New England landscape!).

I’ll be speaking about Hopper’s time in Vermont, of course, and for the Hanover audience I’ll also talk about his connections with New Hampshire. Yes, there are some…although Hopper did not do any paintings in the Granite State.  With that, I’ll leave you in suspense, with the hope that you will come to hear my talk next Thursday!

Edward Hopper at Sea, on the Queen Mary 2

9781611683288 (3)No, Dorothy, we’re not in Kansas any more…or in Vermont, for that matter.  Edward Hopper — in ebook form, on my Kindle — went with us for a transatlantic crossing on the ocean liner Queen Mary 2, from Southampton, England, to the Cunard pier in Brooklyn, New York.

We were at sea for eight days, and while most of our time was out on the deck, walking briskly or lazing in steamer chairs (and oh yes…in various dining rooms, eating!), I did spend a bit of time in the ship’s library. The QM2 is decorated in the classy art deco style that characterized the fabulous ocean liners of the 1920s and ’30s, and the Library is a reader’s haven, with lots of comfy chairs and big windows overlooking the ocean, the prow of the ship, and the spare propeller blades that are mounted there. Made of burnished steel, they resemble abstract sculptures and are far and away the best “artwork” on the ship.
QM2 Sept 2013 161 Of course I navigated first to the Fine Arts section, interested to see what the QM2 had about Edward Hopper.  I found only the 2002 edition of Ivo Kranzfelder’s Hopper, published by Taschen in Germany, a nicely illustrated overview with some interesting commentary but — harumpft! — it makes no mention of Hopper’s time in Vermont.  Of course I wanted to fill in this gap for future QM2 passenger-readers, so I wrote a note on one of my business cards and tucked it into the center of the book, adjacent to the page where Kranzfelder refers briefly to Hopper’s “rural landscapes.”  My card carries the cover image for Edward Hopper in Vermont as well as my contact info. It will be interesting to see if anyone picks up my note, set afloat in a book on the QM2 — rather like a message in a bottle — now on its way to Halifax, Canada, before crossing the Atlantic again, sailing eastward back to Southampton.

The Library’s wooden bookcases have glass doors that can be closed and locked when seas are rough, to keep the books from flying off the shelves.  During our trip the ocean was calm, and the gentle rocking was actually more conducive to snoozing than to reading! Nevertheless, I found a real page-turner in Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, a complete departure from art history and a return to my old love — history of science and medicine.  This is a wonderful and important book that covers some of the most significant social and ethical issues of our time.  It’s serious, but totally absorbing and utterly worthwhile — and I was glad to be able to read it in long stretches on the cruise, without the usual distractions. 

Note that I did some frivolous reading too, a British book about fashion (helpful in putting together my “costumes” for dinners in the Britannia Restaurant!). Once I recover from all that relaxation, reading, and eating, I’ll post more about my upcoming Hopper activities.  Meanwhile, enjoy these shots of my traveling companion, at sea and among friends.

QM2 Sept 2013 179