EDWARD HOPPER (1882–1967)
Entrance to a Brownstone, about 1940s–50s
Charcoal on paper, 7 1/4 x 4 1/2 in.
Study of a Window, about 1940s–50s
Charcoal on paper, 7 x 4 1/2 in.
Signed with initials (at lower right): E. H.
EX COLL.: the artist, until 1967; to his widow, Jo Hopper, Nyack, New York, until 1968; to her estate; to the Reverend and Mrs. Arthayer R. Sanborn, Nyack, New York, and Florida, until 1993; to [Hirschl & Adler Galleries, New York, 1993]; to private collection, California, 1996 until the present
Throughout the course of his career, Hopper executed hundreds of informal sketches of motifs that caught his eye. Favoring black mediums––chalk, charcoal, crayon, and sometimes pencil––he drew on scrap paper, typewriter paper, sheets from his sketchbooks, and on occasion, high-quality artist’s paper, using his drawings as a means of exploring the aesthetic potential of a particular subject, as well as issues relative to light, shadow, mass, line, and composition. Hopper’s fluent drawing style is exemplified in the paired Entrance to a Brownstone and Study of a Window, both intimate vignettes that likewise attest to the artist’s love of depicting architecture. Indeed, Hopper took great delight in the geometry of architectural form. During his years as an illustrator, he would have preferred to draw buildings but was discouraged in this pursuit by his editors, who wanted him to portray people. However, after becoming a full-time painter, Hopper was free to depict subjects that caught his eye, including architectural themes ranging from the humble cottages, Victorian mansions, and wood-frame dwellings he encountered in Cape Cod to the theatres and rowhouses of New York. Hopper explored the latter topic in well-known easel paintings such as Sunlight on Brownstones (1956; Wichita Art Museum, Wichita, Kansas), as well as in this pair of drawings, in which he focused on the key elements of a classic brownstone––a mode of urban architecture (so-named for the dark reddish-brown sandstone that covered the facades) that became ubiquitous in parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn during the mid-nineteenth century.
Hopper would often concentrate on specific architectural details. Such is the case with Entrance to a Brownstone, wherein Hopper directed his attention to the stoop and entranceway leading to the second-floor parlor of a typical rowhouse, this example, with its recessed doorway flanked by simple Doric-style colonettes, having been designed in the Greek Revival Style that was popular in New York from about 1830 to 1850. The same angular forms can be seen in Study of a Window, which features two-over-two windows framed by sturdy casings and topped by a heavy cornice, or casing, devoid of ornamentation.
In keeping with his spontaneous drawing technique, Hopper denotes the stoop and entranceway in a loose, sketchy manner while the window on the companion sheet is rendered with a more emphatic touch that denotes specific parts, such as the muntin bars and the curvilinear aprons of the stone sill. Subsidiary components––notably the column head on the left and the more tentative sketch of the windowsill at the bottom––attest to Hopper’s fascination with the anatomy of a building and the way in which, by juxtaposing diverse items on the page, he sought to resolve issues relative to form and structure.
Hopper seldom sold or exhibited his drawings, feeling that they served a practical purpose as documents of his thought process and working methodology––personal works of art that informed his approach when creating a painting. His drawings were extremely important to him, as evidenced by the fact that he kept a large proportion of the thousands of drawings he made over the years. When Jo died in 1968 and bequeathed her husband’s estate to the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the artist’s drawings––over 2500––comprised most of the donation. Groups of Hopper drawings were also given by Jo to her good friend, Mary Schiffenhaus, while others were acquired by Arthayer R. Sanborn (1916–2007), a minister from the First Baptist Church in Nyack, New York who was close to Jo and Edward in their later years.