Edward Hopper’s Letter from South Royalton

Vermont and PAFA, 2014 482 (3)

Edward Hopper to John Andrew Myers, September 18, 1937. [Click to enlarge.]

In mid-May I was in South Royalton, Vermont, installing an exhibit for the Royalton Memorial Library about Edward Hopper’s visits to Wagon Wheels Farm in 1937 and ’38.  This week I’m in my Philadelphia home, and as I was transferring files to a new computer, I was amused to come across this letter, written by Hopper while he was in South Royalton and mailed to Philadelphia. I found the original letter about a year ago in the archives of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, when I was preparing to do a talk about my book, Edward Hopper in Vermont, for the Academy’s “Art at Lunch” series.

Hopper had a long association with the Pennsylvania Academy, both as an exhibitor and as a member of the jury for their annual exhibition, as referrred to in his 1937 letter to John Andrew Myers, then the Academy’s curator.  Interestingly, a number of the rarely-displayed Vermont watercolors were actually shown at the Academy — in 1939 (White River at Royalton and White River at Sharon), in 1940 (Vermont Hillside and Gravel Bar, White River), and in 1941 (Windy Day).  Of course this was before I was born, and many years before I moved to Philadelphia, but I was nevertheless delighted to find that both Hopper and his Vermont watercolors traveled between South Royalton and Philadelphia, as do I.  I’m certain that this means that we — Hopper, his Vermont paintings, and I — were destined to connect!

In the file of Hopper correspondence in the Pennsylvania Academy’s archives, one letter stands out for its flash of wry humor.  In 1935, having been accorded one of the Pennsylvania Academy’s top honors, Hopper wrote to thank Myers and used the opportunity to reveal his political bend:

“I have received safely the Temple Medal which the Academy has honored me with and it now lies in my safe deposit box, well hidden from The New Deal should they begin to play pranks again and call in all gold medals.”

Hopper’s comment is not surprising, given his and Jo’s well-known antipathy for President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his Depression-era programs.  I wonder if the Hoppers ever knew that First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt also visited South Royalton, in 1941, and that she also stayed overnight at Wagon Wheels Farm…perhaps sleeping in the same bed where the Hoppers had snoozed three years earlier!

The exhibit on Wagon Wheels Farm includes a photo of Eleanor Roosevelt in the farmhouse driveway, along with reproductions of Hopper’s South Royalton watercolors and Jo Hopper’s portrait of Alan Slater.  It continues through June 13 in the Royalton Memorial Library in South Royalton.