“City Roofs” at the Whitney Museum of American Art: Hopper’s Take, and My Own

The Whitney Museum has just announced the gift of a wonderful Edward Hopper painting:  City Roofs, a view from Hopper’s own roof in the building on New York City’s Washington Square, where Edward and Jo lived and painted for most of their adult lives.  To me, this painting is quintessentially Hopper, a realistic composition of architectural forms that’s simultaneously abstracted, with flat planes of color illuminated by sunlight. It’s static and quietly voyeuristic, Hopper as detached observer, literally above it all, yet hinting at the teaming life of the city behind all those windows, beneath all those chimneys and vents.  This view reminds me of my college days in New York, when the first days of spring drew us up to the top of our dorm building.  We enjoyed the views — ranges of other rooftops receding into the distance, punctuated by well-weathered water towers — although our main purpose was sunbathing. When I lay flat on my back, the parapets muffled the sound of the Broadway traffic, and closing my eyes to the warmth of the sun, “roof” almost became “beach.”  And yes, we wore our bathing suits…Hopper might have loved this sight!

The “new” Whitney Museum has its own fabulous views of city roofs.  During my first visit, for the press opening in April of 2015, what I saw from the terraces was as entrancing as the artwork within.  Here’s one of the many shots I took.

Hopper’s “Spindley Locusts”: Vermont-Like, But Not Vermont

Edward Hopper’s Spindley Locusts surfaced last week at Sotheby’s in New York, and it now has a new owner — the fortunate individual who could afford to pay $305,000 for this small watercolor! Hopper painted Spindley Locusts in 1936, near Pamet Point Road in Wellfleet, Massachusetts, according to Jo Hopper’s notes in the record book.

Edward Hopper, “Spindley Locusts,” watercolor, 1936.

In the summer of 1936 the Hoppers also travelled into Vermont, where Hopper painted three watercolor landscapes that have resonance with Spindley Locusts, in subject, composition, and palette. Most similar is Mountain Meadow, probably painted in the East Montpelier area (now in the Parrish Art Museum, Southampton, New York).  Here, however, Hopper included an element that’s not in Spindley Locusts, a pale blue sky with filmy white clouds.

Edward Hopper, “Mountain Meadow,” 1936. Watercolor and pencil on paper. Parris Art Museum, Southampton, New York.

Indeed, the Vermont sky, with its endlessly changing patterns of clouds and sunlight, may have been one of the factors that inspired Hopper’s numerous returns to the Green Mountain state.  Take a look at the plates in my book, Edward Hopper in Vermont, to see the range of atmospheric variations that he captured here during his summer sojourns between 1927 and 1938.