AN EXPLORATION OF THE ART OF CHARLES BURCHFIELD ( 1893-1967) AND EDWARD HOPPER ( 1882-1967) TWO UNUSUAL SOCIAL REALIST PAINTERS WHO CONSIDERED ASPECTS OF LONELINESS , ISOLATION AND PSYCHOLOGICAL INTERPRETATIONS. BOTH OF THEM PRESENTED A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE OF REALISM THAN EITHER THE ASHCAN SCHOOL OR THE SOCIAL REALIST SCHOOL OF SHAHN , BISHOP AND MARSH :PART 2

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I am now going to continue my further discussion and appraisal of both Burchfield and Hopper. American art continues with its discussion of Hopper’s abilities.

” Yet it is Hopper’s careful attentiveness to this monotony  to this visual inactivity that reinforces the sense of Isolation and Alienation in his Work( Summer in the City). we are bound to ask who are these two figures Husband and Wife , lovers conducting an affair in a cheap  anonymous hotel room”.[1].

” Study for Nighthawks 1942 In a typically hopper manner the narrative is obscure , the spectator remaining uncertain as to the relationship between the figures within and indeed why he or she is situated on the empty street looking in”. [2].

As always Edward Hopper uses the light to create very carefully constructed shadows to light up his characters or the surrounding architecture.

”  Hopper even at this early stage has captured the effect of the artificial light flooding out from the diner and illuminating the nocturnal scene”. [3].

Baigell in his Concise history of American Painting shows how Hopper’s figures never interacted but we see them from Windows or porches.

” Hopper’s future interests were apparent early in 1913. His figures rarely participated in social activities but might view them through an open Window or from a porch”.[4].

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Compartment-C-Car-Edward-Hopper

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I have used images from Richard Tuschmann’s collection to show how these modern painters were influenced by Hopper and copied his style.

” Hopper’s own sense of form is one of the most sophisticated in Modern American art and distinguishes his art from that of other similar artists”.[5].

” Hopper’s figures seem unable to move because they are looked into their compositional formats despite their three dimensional bulk and realistic appearance their humanity is denied”. [6].

Hopper’s architectural forms at times are more important than the figures he draws.

” at times they (Figures) are less important than the architectural forms around them. since hopper’s figures rarely interact with each other or with the viewer their Isolation is only emphasised by such formal devices”[7].

Rolf G Renner in the Taschen Book on Hopper considers the signs that Hopper uses in his work.

” He (Hopper) drew attention to the distinctive sign system inhabited by American architecture which combined a wide heterogeneous variety of styles in an early naïve anticipation of post-modern plurality in Architecture”. [8].

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Renner continues with his discussion on Hopper’s works and how they changed over time.

” In Hopper’s eyes American Architecture made demands on Realist painting that were often of a thoroughly contemporary nature”. [9].

” In Cobbs Barn South truro he uses the play of light and shadow to such an effect that the divide that marks off the grassland from the buildings is almost erased”. [10].

Renner shows further on the importance of Hopper’s realist work especially if you look at his City views and Landscapes and see how and why he has drawn his realist work in this way.

” By the end of the 1920’s Hopper’s pictures of houses , Landscapes and City scenes had already acquired an emblematic function standing for the conditions of human life”. [11].

” Hopper was using his views of houses and cities to suggest the forces that govern life. This line in his art was continued as late as 1942″. [12].

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Renner again raises the conflicts of nature and civilisation as well as psychological issues that were foremost in Hopper’s depictions of Life and those who inhabited the real world.

” The pictures of the 1940’s that can be traced to earlier sketches and ideas show that Hopper’s city scapes and the paintings in which he expressed the conflict of nature and Human Civilisation always included experience that can be analysed in Psychological terms”. [13].

” This being the case the paintings in which Hopper guides our view from the realm of nature into the realm of civilisation could often just as well be reversed. The two realms are finally the two haves of a symmetrical design”. [14].

You can see as Laura Mulvey has argued that the Male Gaze is an important factor in Hopper’s work which has images of Women . But his Nudes also  show the direction he was going in.

” In Compartment C and New York movie his (Hopper) subject was the solitary absorption of women in isolated situations, situations that also suggest a certain serenity and snug protection”. [15].

” The energy and inertia that conflicts so fraughtly in this painting( Western Motel 1957) are of course psychological in nature too”. [16].

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I have shown some of Eric Fischl’s and Richard Tuschmann’s images to make a comparison between them and Edward Hopper, different in many ways but the main contrast is the interaction in Fischl’s pictures where as with Hopper they are isolated and no interaction whatsoever.

The meaning of Hopper’s late pictures of people and cities can best be understood if we compare Reginald Marsh’s work of the late 1930’s and 1940’s. Marsh too was painting life in the Modern City. He too was drawing attention to social gaps and tensions and his work often showed Women as catalysts of social change”. [17].

” In retrospect the evolution of Hopper’s late work strikes us as having been logically anticipated by his 1920’s position between the ashcan School( Robert Henri Everett Shinn, John Sloan and George Luks) and the 14th street School of Marsh and others ( Ben Shahn and Isabel Bishop)”.[18].

Hopper and Burchfield although influenced by both schools of Realists went their own way from the 1920’s.

” Edward Hopper and Charles Burchfield (who was influenced and in turn influenced Hopper) went a way of their own from the 1920’s on , painting in a style of natural expression that derived from the example of Robert Henri”. [19].

This completes my exploration of Edward Hopper and Charles Burchfield. In my next posting I will be considering George Tooker and Philip Evergood.

FOOTNOTES

  1. AMERICAN ART FLAME PUBLISHING PG.320
  2. DITTO.PG.328
  3. DITTO.PG.328
  4. A CONCISE HISTORY OF AMERICAN PAINTING AND SCULPTURE MATTHEW BAIGELL.PG.254
  5. DITTO.PG.255
  6. DITTO.PG.255
  7. DITTO.PG.255
  8. HOPPER TASCHEN BOOKS ROLF RENNER PG.28
  9. DITTO.PG.29
  10. DITTO.PG.40
  11. DITTO.PG.41
  12. DITTO.PG.41
  13. DITTO.PG.45
  14. DITTO.PG.45
  15. DITTO.PG.46
  16. DITTO.PG.46
  17. DITTO.PG.85
  18. DITTO.PG.88
  19. DITTO.PG.88

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2 thoughts on “AN EXPLORATION OF THE ART OF CHARLES BURCHFIELD ( 1893-1967) AND EDWARD HOPPER ( 1882-1967) TWO UNUSUAL SOCIAL REALIST PAINTERS WHO CONSIDERED ASPECTS OF LONELINESS , ISOLATION AND PSYCHOLOGICAL INTERPRETATIONS. BOTH OF THEM PRESENTED A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE OF REALISM THAN EITHER THE ASHCAN SCHOOL OR THE SOCIAL REALIST SCHOOL OF SHAHN , BISHOP AND MARSH :PART 2”

    1. Paul,
      Incredible what Greenberg said about Hopper he was a really great Realist Painter who had that ability to show isolated people not interacting and in his Nudes he always used his Wife Josephine Richard Tuschmann and Eric Fischl I found interesting Painters as well. Laurence

      Liked by 1 person

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