EDWARD HOPPER (1882–1967)
Talbot’s House, 1926
Watercolor on paper, 13 7/8 x 20 in.
Signed and inscribed (at lower left): Edward Hopper / Rockland ME
RECORDED: Edward Hopper, “Record Books of Edward Hopper” (unpub. ms., Hopper Archives, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 1936), Record Book 1, p. 63 (s.v. delivered to Rehn Gallery, August 15, 1926): “Talbot’s House. Rockland—fine white Mansard.” // Elizabeth Luther Cary, “Three Races: An American, A Slav and Some Japanese Painters,” The New York Times, February 20, 1927, p. 11 // Lloyd Goodrich, “The Paintings of Edward Hopper,” The Arts 11 (March 1927), pp. 134–38 // Garnett McCoy, “The Best Things of Their Kind Since Homer,” Archives of American Art Bulletin 7 (July–October 1967), p. 13 // Diana Loercher, “Hopper’s Windows Overlook Maine,” Christian Science Monitor, August 20, 1971, p. 4 // Lloyd Goodrich, Edward Hopper (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1971), p. 63 illus. in color // “Farnsworth Shows Hopper Paintings,” The Bangor Daily News, July 9, 1971, p. 4 illus. // Gail Levin, Hopper’s Places (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1985), pp. 7, 12, 28–29, plate 4 illus. in color // Edward Hopper Watercolors Address Book (New York: Whitney Museum of American Art, 1989), illus. in color // Gail Levin, Edward Hopper: A Catalogue Raisonné, vol. 2: Watercolors (New York: W. W. Norton, 1995), p. 109 no. W-104 illus. in color // Virginia M. Mecklenburg, Edward Hopper: The Watercolors (Washington, D.C.: The Smithsonian Institution, 1999), pp. 54 no. 58 illus. in color, 55, 157, 169 n. 3
EXHIBITED: Frank K. M. Rehn, New York, February 14–March 5, 1927, Recent Works by Edward Hopper, no. 10 // Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut, November 25–December 9, 1928, Exhibition of the Water Colors of Edward Hopper // Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Detroit Institute of Arts, 1950, Edward Hopper Retrospective Exhibition, p. 37 no. 63 // XXVI Venice Biennale, Venice Italy, June 14–October 19, 1952 // Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; The Art Institute of Chicago; Detroit Institute of Arts; City Art Museum of St. Louis, 1964–65, Edward Hopper, p. 66 no. 92, illus. in color on cover // William A. Farnsworth Library and Art Museum, Rockland, Maine, July 9–September 5, 1971, Edward Hopper, 1882–1967 Oils, Watercolors, Etchings // Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, September 24–November 28, 1971, Edward Hopper Exhibition // Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick, Maine, July 15–October 16, 2011, Edward Hopper’s Maine, pp. 23, 24, 34 n. 40, 101 no. 39 illus. in color
EX COLL.: the artist; to [Frank K. M. Rehn Gallery, New York, 1926]; to Frank Rehn, New York, 1927; to [Frank Rehn Gallery, New York, by 1954]; to private collection, 1954, and by descent until the present
In the summer of 1926, Edward and Jo Hopper, still without a car, headed north again. They took the train from New York City to Eastport, Maine, a town which they found disappointing. “It has very little of the character of a New England coast town,” Hopper wrote to his New York dealer and friend, Frank Rehn. From Eastport they traveled to Bangor and then to Rockland. Rockland is situated on the southwest corner of Penobscot Bay, with a deep-water harbor that made it an early center of commerce on the mid-Maine coast. Its first period of prosperity, before the Civil War, was based on shipbuilding and trade in lime. The war brought a decline to the lime industry, and it was not until the 1870s that the town’s economy improved. By the time that the Hoppers arrived there in 1926, Rockland was, again, somewhat sleepy.
The enthusiastic reception that had greeted Hopper’s watercolor renderings of Gloucester’s Victorian houses remained fresh in mind. In Rockland, Hopper fixed his easel before a handsome house with a mansard roof at 73 Talbot Street. The building, known locally as “Talbot’s House,” dated, in fact, to 1874, before Talbot’s ownership. It had been built by prominent contractor William H. Glover for Captain Albert F. Ames, an entrepreneurial Rocklander involved in shipbuilding, lime mining, and export and the sale of groceries and ship stores. Ames subsequently sold the house to George L. Knight, listed in Rockland city directories as a “traveling salesman.” Knight, in turn, sold the property to David Talbot. Born in Rockland in 1859, Talbot was the son of a local businessman. As a young man he went into the livery trade, organizing horse teams to transport newly quarried limestone. He married Cora Hewitt in 1881, and, in 1888, moved to Omaha, Nebraska, where he joined his brother-in-law in the ice business. Talbot prospered, becoming known as the “ice king of Omaha.” When he decided to return to Rockland in 1905 for “health reasons,” he bought the 30-year-old Victorian home on what was then Middle Street. (For a history of the house, see the Nomination Form for the Rockland Residential Historical District, National Register of Historic Places, online.) Talbot lived for fifteen years in Rockland before his death in 1920. In that time, he took an active role in numerous civic improvement plans, including the paving of Rockland’s Streets. In his honor, Middle Street was renamed Talbot Street. The house at 73 Talbot Street remained in the family until 1963, when Talbot’s family donated it to a home for aged women, a favorite charity of Cora (Mrs. David) Talbot (d. 1938) and her daughter-in-law, Pauline. Thus, when Edward Hopper painted the house in 1926, it was still very much a private residence. Hopper sent the watercolor to Rehn’s gallery in August 1927, shortly after it was painted.
In Hopper’s Places, Gail Levin describes the circumstances of Hopper’s painting of the Talbot House, “located within easy walking distance of the harbor.”
Hopper’s vantage point for this watercolor was the front step of a house located just across this quiet street, where he probably sat with his paper and paints. In his composition, he intentionally cropped the central tower, the top of the chimney, and the base of the house, creating the sense of an imposing image continuing beyond the boundary of the paper. The style of this house was one that had particularly appealed to Hopper over the previous three years... (Levin, Hopper’s Places, pp. 28–29).
While today we delight in what remains of Victorian architecture (and preserve it), Hopper’s fondness for these houses is a measure of his very public refusal to go with the flow of “modern” aesthetics. In the 1920s, Victorian houses were regarded as monstrosities, living testimony to the questionable taste of the late-nineteenth century. In 1924, responding to a Hopper watercolor of a Gloucester house, a critic for The New York Times, wrote that “Hopper takes a blatantly hideous structure with a mansard roof, flaunting its ugliness.” He wasn’t alone in his observation. Henry McBride, in a positive review of the 1924 show at Rehn, gave Hopper a little more latitude, finding him “forcefully eloquent upon the hitherto concealed beauty of some supposedly hideous buildings built during the Garfield administration” [in truth, they were built earlier]. “The dwellings, in fact, are hideous, and people of sensibility were quite justified in shuddering when they passed these relics of a dark era in American history.” McBride accuses Hopper of joining “with more vehemence than most, in the cult that has restored the mid-Victorian forms to our hearts.” (New York Sun, October 24, p. 4). Good sales told a different story and Hopper did not let these opinions of his subject matter interfere with his choice in 1926 to paint Victorian houses in Rockland.
Talbot’s House was one of two works from the 1927 Rehn show that the dealer, Frank K. M. Rehn (1886–1956) selected for his private collection. He kept it until 1954, when he consigned it back to the gallery. It was purchased that year by the family of the present owner. It has thus been in one family’s collection for 67 years.