The grandeur of everyday life

By L.Seizani

We tend to imagine that painters and artists in general lead a life of great passions. Usuallly it is indeed this way, when we think for example of Picasso and his love affairs or of Dali and his eccentric appearance, or of Van Gogh and his cut ear and so on. However, every now and again there are some great painters who have only their talent and their hard work as their guide. They live quiet lives, married to the same woman forever.
This is the case of the famous American painter Edward Hopper, who was born in 1882 and died in 1967. He lived for a while in Paris and returned home to marry Jo Nivison, another painter, who served as a model for many of his paintings. Jo was in fact his only female model and she was omnipresent. Hopper produced a very large number of paintings that can be found today in New York museums such as Whitney and MOMA as well as in other cities and in private collections. His themes are landscapes with lighthouses, sailing boats in the storm, colonial country houses and scenes from New York City with lonely people in rather impersonal houses and offices. As the painter observes their lives and infiltrates the walls of their everyday life, he reminds us of the hero of Hitchcock’s film “Rear window” or of a voyeur. His most famous work that has been reproduced very often and turned into a poster, is called “Nighthawks” and depicts the clients of a bar behind a glass wall. In other paintings of Hopper’s we can see a woman enjoying the loneliness inside her appartment, another one travelling by train, a couple standing before the entrance of a house, two women who talk seated at the table of a chinese restaurant.
What makes Hopper so unique, what makes him today one of the most important painters worldwide? Everything. His technique, his colours, his realistic glance that conveys glamour and grandeur to the everyday life of anonymous people. The light that washes them, takes them out of their obscurity and is like a spotlight that brings them to the center of the stage. These brooding, tired, bored people of the city, who mechanically follow their routine, are selected by the eye of the painter and become important. Even soulless things seem to have a voice. The gas station, the house by the railroad, the roads and the rocks in Maine.
Something else is important about Hopper’s work: he has immortalized an era. With all its elements: the clothes that people wear, the architecture, the modest interior decoration of the houses, the habits of the inhabitants of a big city. But mostly with the first signs of isolation and distance among them.
LS
-First published on www.peopleandideas.gr on 16.08.10