Behind the Scenes: HOPPER DRAWINGS at the WHITNEY

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This post is about a private tour on WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 25th to see the current exhibition at the Whitney Museum, HOPPER DRAWINGS,  focusing on the drawings and studies created by Edward Hopper in preparation for his oil paintings.   Grab this chance to see this collection – because after this exhibition these works will likely get packed away (while the Whitney gets ready for its big move downtown) and won’t be seen again for a long, loooooong time.

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Every once in a while an image becomes the touchstone of an era.  For those of us whose parents – or perhaps grandparents – experienced the Depression and told many stories about that long, difficult and life-changing period, there is probably no more significant a visual reminder of it than the artist Edward Hopper’s iconic work, Nighthawks.  Hopper Nighthawks Drawing Ehas long been associated with Depression-era New York and also Cape CoNighthawk Drawingd where his dark palette and stark, deeply shadowed, angular and spare compositions evoked loneliness and emotional desolation.   Upon her death in 1968 (ten months after her husband’s) Hopper’s widow, Josephine Nivison Hopper, bequeathed essentially the entirety of Hopper’s remaining work (almost 2500 pieces) to the Whitney Museum which, not surprisingly,  has the largest collection of the artist’s work in the world.

Hopper Montage BSo, in keeping with this season’s casual “Behind the Scenes” theme, we have arranged for a private tour of the Whitney’s current exhibition, Hopper Drawings (which closes on October 6th)  From studies, to sketches to drawings to oil paintings – the Whitney has culled their vast collection to create a narrative which reveals the process and sequence behind Hopper’s thinking as he developed his compositions.  This is an astonishingly rare, intact, legacy  and it’s worthwhile to grab the opportunity to see it while it’s available.

Hopper Montage ANighthawks, easily the best known of Hopper’s works and still routinely referred to in contemporary culture, will be among the works shown.   Whether recreated as a set in the Steve Martin movie Pennies from Heaven (lower right on the left), or used as a cartoon location for Homer and his pals on The Simpsons (upper right), repurposed for commercial purposes (lower left) or commissioned for a bit of – right now – performance art in the prow of the Flatiron Building (upper left), it’s clear that Nighthawks  transcended the period in which it was created to become an over-arching symbol of the human condition.  Legions of people search New York to find the location of the Nighthawks cafe ( Hint:  it’s NOT the Flatiron Building but more likely a now long-gone diner at one of the Village’s extremely angled intersections close to Hopper’s NYC studio near Washington Square.)

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But there is much more to Hopper’s work than that one well-known painting.  In South Truro in Cape Cod, Massachusets where the landscapes, simple homes, lighthouses and the post office (where Tommy Lee Jones portrayed the local postmaster in Men in Black II) are rendered in Hopper’s signature minimalist style, these works don’t simply portray these locations – they make you feel the psychological heft of actually being there.   These breathtaking,  figurative works somehow manage to distill both reality and memory to create a reservoir of emotional stillness.  Trained as a commercial illustrator, Hopper was often compared to his contemporary, the hyper-realistic painter Norman Rockwell – which supposedly drove Hopper crazy!  (Hey, Norman Rockwell is pretty great, too !)

Edward Hopper Self PortraitGiven that the Whitney is about to start packing up for its move downtown next to the Highline it is not likely that their Hopper collection is going to see the light of day again for a long, long time.  So this is your chance to see over 20 Hopper oil paintings but, even better, many of the corresponding drawings that made them what they were.  DETAILS:  Wednesday, September 25th in the early afternoon.  Tickets for the exhibition and tour will be $30. per person and includes museum admission and fee for the tour guide; you will be sent an MWC Crowdtilt Reservation/ Payment link via email.   We may try for an early lunch at the Whitney before the tour at the Museum’s no-reservations allowed Danny Meyer restaurant.

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