It’s Winter in Vermont…

It’s wonderfully cold and snowy in Vermont, weather that gives me hope that winter hasn’t entirely disappeared from our planet. I thought that this would be a good time to replace my header photo — the one of a stack of books outside on a balmy autumn day — with a more seasonal shot, showing the book situated cozily indoors.

Vermont is beautiful in the snow, but Edward Hopper didn’t like cold weather, and so we have no Hopper watercolors of the White River looking truly white.  For those kinds of pictures we have to look  to Aldro Hibbard and Willard Metcalf, who painted en plein air even in frigid weather and left us some gorgeous winter scenes, some of them in Vermont, with rivers and brooks streaming through islands of ice.

Hopper Studio 069Edward and Josephine Hopper spent their winters in New York City’s Greenwich Village, at 3 Washington Square North. Their residence, a walk-up on the top floor, comprised living quarters and two studios, Edward’s in the front and Jo’s in the rear of the building. They lived there from the time of their marriage, in 1924, until they died, Edward in 1967 and Jo less than a year later.

Presumably the Hoppers kept reasonably warm, with both a fireplace and a cast-iron pot belly stove, made by the W. M. Crane Company, but they had to bring coal up from the basement, either using the dumbwaiter or walking up four flights–a climb of 74 steps.

Hopper Studio 060Hopper Studio 046The building was and is owned by New York University, and although the space has been used for offices for many years, some of the accoutrements of the Hoppers’ home are still there  — the coal-burning stove (sans stovepipe), Edward’s etching press and easel, and a few pieces of furniture. A  few years ago I signed up for a group tour of 3 Washington Square, with fellow alums from Columbia University, and I took these pictures then. Note that the place looks pretty much the same as it did in 1947, when Bernice Abbott took the famous photo that’s now hanging over the fireplace. Even at his most successful, Hopper remained frugal, and his and Jo’s homes were sparsely furnished, in keeping with their rather Spartan lifestyle.
Hopper Studio 041The Hoppers also had a cookstove, a York range with burners and an oven, but it’s hard to imagine preparing meals in the tiny “kitchen.” It’s a stretch to even use the term for this cramped space, divided by the narrow hallway that runs through the center of the apartment, with the stove on one side and a small sink and half-sized Frigidaire on the other.  No wonder Jo hated to cook!  I suspect that the  “Do not touch” signs placed by NYU would have met with her enthusiastic approval.
Hopper Studio 048Mike and I — no Spartans we! — have a Vermont Castings stove that we use for atmosphere and extra warmth on really chilly nights.  It runs on propane and is certainly easier to operate and probably a lot more efficient than the Hopper’s cast-iron coal stove. But it nevertheless reminds me of him, and so I thought it would be another good setting for a photo of the book.  Since Edward Hopper is here in Vermont this winter, figuratively speaking, the least I can do is to keep him warm.

January 2013 Hopper in Winter 024

Jan 2013, Vermont, Russ Hill 014Today, while taking a walk on the road that runs up the hill from our house, we found evidence in an abandoned shed that some of our long-ago neighbors had something in common with Hopper, at least in the stove department.

I guess this is just Jan 2013, Vermont, Russ Hill 013yet another take on “Finding Edward Hopper in Vermont.”

And a postscript:
While you’re keeping warm on these cold winter evenings, I can recommend a great book to read while you’re curled up by the fire:  Edward Hopper in Vermont.

6 thoughts on “It’s Winter in Vermont…

  1. I love your “blog” – guess that’s the terminology – technically challenged moi. Fascinating pictures & info on the Hoppers’ home of so many years.

    I miss the warmth of our woodburning stove in New Mexico. When it was l0 degrees, we kept going all night. No furnace in that house. Passive solar.

    My artist friend whom I sent your book for Christmas is enthralled & wondering how long it took to write? She’s recently moved into landscapes.

    • Liz, I’m having fun with the blog, as it’s giving me a chance to revisit and write about some of the bits and pieces that either didn’t fit into the book or were consigned to the footnotes (and as you know, there are a lot of those!). My last piece seems to have evoked many memories of past winters–and stoves!–among my readers. In January everyone likes to think about being warm!

      The book took a year to write (not counting the research, which was ongoing for several years). The most time-consuming task was not the story-telling but gaining the permissions for the artwork. This is the responsibility of the author, not the publisher, and it’s a daunting job. It involves exercising “due diligence” in identifying and locating the rights holders (both the owners of the artwork and any copyright holders of the photographic images), securing written permissions for all editions of the book (in a climate where everyone, including me, is confused about the parameters of ebook publishing), and paying associated fees. I could write a book about this process, although fortunately someone else already has (Susan M. Bielstein, Permissions, A Survival Guide, The University of Chicago Press, 2006).

      I’m not surprised that your artist friend likes the book. The watercolor artists around here are already anticipating painting their own versions of Hopper’s White River scenes, once spring comes and the White River landscape greens up again.

  2. Bonnie,

    I appreciate your posting about the Hopper residence in New York. Their frugality must have been legendary in their circle of friends, which included collectors and fellow artists. You may recall I wrote previously about my awareness of your new book; I exercised great discipline in waiting for Christmas so my wife could have a special something to buy me, and this was it!

    I didn’t mention that in addition to being a painter following in the footsteps of Hopper, I’m also an art director for an educational publisher. Hearing your tale of woe regarding the permissions process certainly struck a chord with me. It is one of the big changes in publishing since I began in the business nearly twenty years ago. Of course, digital publishing is the biggest.

    Compliments on your book! It’s well-written, the plates are excellent, and you’ve shined a light on Edward Hopper’s Vermont work that vastly exceeds all previous coverage of this portion of his body of work. Thank you for your hard work, energy, time, and talent. There are many people–as evidenced by attendance at the current Paris exhibition–who are extremely interested in the paintings he has created.

    Best Regards,
    David

    • David,

      Very nice to read your compliments about the book, thank you, and I also appreciate your empathetic comments about gaining permissions to publish the artwork. I was actually fortunate in that I was able to secure almost all of the permissions I requested, but/and it was labor-intensive, to say the least.

      I understand that the Paris exhibition of Hoppers is breaking attendance records for the Grand Palais. Did you read my piece about “the French connection” and the one Vermont watercolor that’s there? Most, if not all, of the Hopper watercolors that are in my book are going to be exhibited at the Middlebury College Museum of Art next summer, May 23 – August 11, 2013. Perhaps you can come to Vermont to see it? Watch my website for more details!

      Thanks again for writing!

      Bonnie

      • Bonnie,

        That’s great news about the Hopper exhibit in Middlebury. I’ll surely try to get there, and there’s plenty of time (2-1/2 months) to do so.

        My first Hopper show experience: the 1995 “Art and the American Imagination” exhibition at the Whitney in 1995. I was a “professional” artist for all of one year at that time, so long ago. I’ll never forget the sight of all the people there to see the show, but more importantly, Hoppers EVERYWHERE–as far as the eye could see from certain vantage points. All the greats were there: Nighthawks, Second Story Sunlight, Automat, Gas (the painting that lured me into becoming an artist!), Western Motel, Cape Cod Morning, and my all time favorite, Solitude. 59 paintings in all, I think. Amazing and life-changing, at least for me.

        I will certainly stay tuned. Meanwhile, enjoy the winter as well as the post-authoring experience. A perfect time of year to “hibernate” and recharge batteries.

        David

        • David,

          I saw the Whitney show in 1995 as well, though it wasn’t my first major
          Hopper show. I’d seen the 1964 retrospective at the Whitney when I was
          living in New York; from that perspective, I have to admit, I think I took
          it for granted. In 1995 I was visiting New York from my then-home in
          Hawai’i, and my visit happened to coincide with the “Art and the American
          Imagination” exhibit–a wonderful coincidence, as the only Hopper in Hawai’i
          is Peggy (a terrific local artist, but a far cry from Edward). I saw it
          twice, and it stayed in my mind as it did in yours.

          Hope to see you in Middlebury! The exhibit will be small but very special.

          Bonnie

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