“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.

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