Edward Hopper Sketches Revealed in Hopper Drawing

Rani Molla
Written 1 year ago
in Design

Masterpieces aren’t just born. They are developed. Hopper Drawing shows Edward Hopper’s process through more than 200 drawings, including sketches, preparatory studies, final pieces and related works. Altogether, they illustrate Hopper’s process, from conceptualization to final product.

Edward Hopper (1882–1967) Study for Nighthawks, 1941 or 1942 Fabricated chalk on paper, 8 1/2 x 11 1/16 in. (21.6 x 28.1 cm) Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Josephine N. Hopper Bequest 70.195

Edward Hopper (1882–1967) Study for Nighthawks, 1941 or 1942 Fabricated chalk on paper, 8 7/16 x 10 15/16 in. (21.4 x 27.8 cm) Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Josephine N. Hopper Bequest 70.193

Edward Hopper (1882–1967) Study for Nighthawks, 1941 or 1942 Fabricated chalk and charcoal on paper; 11 1/8 x 15 in. (28.3 x 38.1 cm) Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase and gift of Josephine N. Hopper by exchange 2011.65

 

Edward Hopper (1882–1967) Nighthawks, 1942 Oil on canvas, 33 1/8 x 60 in. (84.1 x 152.4 cm) The Art Institute of Chicago; Friends of American Art Collection 1942.51 © Heirs of Josephine N. Hopper, licensed by the Whitney Museum of American Art. Photography © The Art Institute of Chicago

“By comparing related studies to paintings, we can see the evolution of specific ideas as the artist combined, through drawing, his observations of the world with his imagination,” says the show’s curator Carter E. Foster. “In other instances, his drawings provide a crucial form of continuity among thematically related paintings, a kind of connective tissue that allowed Hopper to revisit and re-examine ideas over time.”

This is evident in his process of his most iconic paintings, including Early Sunday Morning (1930), New York Movie (1939), Office at Night (1940), Gas (1940), and Nighthawks (1942). Nighthawks is a madeup but likely city scene in a building that looks like Manhattan’s Flatiron Building but that never really existed as painted.  The drawings show how Hopper came up with the arrangement of late-night diners and the building itself.

As a satellite part of the exhibition, the Whitney staged the Nighthawks scene in the building from which it was inspired: The Flatiron. Passersby in lower Manhattan stumble upon cutouts of the iconic late-night scene arranged amid the Flatiron’s glassed ground floor–and with a little imagination it looks very much like a lifesize version of the original. Hopper’s diner was apparently inspired by the building’s narrowing shape.

For designers, this exhibition reminds us that inspiration comes in many forms and that the best finished products require a great deal of process.

Hopper Drawing
Whitney Museum of American Art
Through Oct. 6 

Photography by Rani Molla.

Rani Molla has a digital media master’s degree from Columbia Journalism School and is the editorial producer at GigaOM. She’s a journalism reader, writer, photographer, videographer, data visualizer and general doer. Follow her on Twitter.