Home Magazine Hopper’s Landscapes at Fondation Beyeler

“Edward Hopper” exhibition at Fondation Beyeler in Basel shed new light on little known Hopper’s Landscapes, as well as german director Wim Wenders, who has created an exciting and immersive new short film for the occasion. Talented filmmaker and writer Wim Wenders, in his "Two or Three Things I Know about Edward Hopper", a 3D personal tribute to the painter, says that “Hopper’s paintings are frames from movies that we’ve never made”. Frames laconically awaiting for something to happen. Silent pictures in a wide format.

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In 1934, Edward Hopper built a small white house in the empty dunes of South Truro, Massachusetts, part of Cape Cod National Seashore. He painted there every summer until his death in 1967. This expanse ecosystem of hills and the crystalline sky has been called “The Hopper Landscape”. A silent landscape on stand-by, suspended in time. Highlighting Hopper’s paintings, watercolors and drawings are only known to a few specialists, “Edward Hopper” exhibition (Until 17th May 20202) at Fondation Beyeler in Basel, for the first time, brings together Hopper’s landscapes, including the urban ones, which are not actual, they only exist in his paintings. Inner views, flashes of inspiration, projected visions instilled by the original real-world landscapes, which - like good literature - means something to everyone.


Edward Hopper, Gas, 1940, Öl auf Leinwald, 66.7 x 102.2 cm, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Mrs. Simon Guggenheim Fund, 577.1943,
© Heirs of Josephine Hopper / 2019, ProLitteris, Zurich, © 2019 Digital image, The Museum of Modern Art, New York/Scala, Florence


Edward Hopper was born in 1882, in Nyack, New York, a small town on the Hudson River. For 20 years, he has worked as a freelance illustrator and graphic designer for New York advertising agencies. After three trips to Europe (especially to Paris) and summers spent on the coast in Maine and Cape Cod, in 1923, he began producing landscape watercolors. Renowned as “the painter of light”, his fascination was toward the perception of light and dramatic shadow effects. 


Edward Hopper, Railroad Sunset, 1929, Oil on canvas, 74.5 x 122.2 cm, Josephine N. Hopper Bequest., Inv. N.: 70.1170., New York, Whitney Museum of American Art.,
© Heirs of Josephine Hopper / 2019, ProLitteris, Zurich, © 2019 Digital image Whitney Museum of American Art / Licensed by Scala

With his wife, Josephine Nivison, he undertook many trains and car journeys across the country. Rather than a specific place, Railroad Sunset (1929) represents the languid softness and vastness and solitude of American landscapes. The painting is a melancholy, flux of shades - red, orange, yellow, blue up in the sky and the deep green of the valley below - over time, from day into night. It’s a poetic ritual of the flowing of the hours, probably capturing the mood of a warm summer evening.


Edward Hopper, Cape Cod Morning, 1950, Oil on canvas, 86.7 x 102.3 cm, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Sara Roby Foundation,
© Heirs of Josephine Hopper / 2019, ProLitteris, Zurich, Photo: Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gene Young


Edward Hopper, The City, 1927, Oil on canvas, Tucson, The University of Arizona Museum of Art, Gift of C. Leonard Pfeiffer
© Heirs of Josephine Hopper / 2019, ProLitteris, Zurich


Edward Hopper depicted boulders, tufts of grass, hills, waves, horses with bold brushstrokes, conferring them sculptural corporeality. Bright and dark spots, images in motion, alternate to gentle, almost transparent views and fixed images. With pristine scenarios silent - except for the human figures, The Bootleggers (1925) in a motorboat (a major theme in his artistic output) - Hopper’s paintings are vertiginous: each and every view gives a sense of what comes beyond the frame’s limit and the panoramic observation point on which the eye will alight. In Hopper’s pictorial spaces nature’s forces and triggering events remains always invisible to the viewer.   
Other works in the exhibition include ineffable watercolor landscapes and Impressionism-influenced city views, like in The City, where the geometrical design of New York’s urban architectures of the 1930s emphasizes the almost total absence of humanity and the tones dramatically switched off. Hopper’s frequent depiction of two-storey houses alludes to the meanders of human consciousness, inaccessible old memories and it’s even a premonition of self-portrait. In Study for Solitude #56 (1944), a black and white drawing with a light touch of pastel orange, we see a country house under a gigantic tree and next to it a road, leading to nowhere. We look toward limitless worlds of expectations, trying to figuring out our own inaudible movie.

Cover image: Edward Hopper, Second Story Sunlight, 1960, Oil on canvas, 102.1 x 127.3 cm, Purchase with funds from the Friends of the Whitney Museum of American Art., Inv. N.: 60.54., New York, Whitney Museum of American Art., © Heirs of Josephine Hopper / 2019, ProLitteris, Zurich, © 2019 Digital image Whitney Museum of American Art / Licensed by Scala.

Written by Petra Chiodi   

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