I’ve been reading Edward Hopper, about the artist, by Rolf G. Renner. I’ve always been drawn to Hopper’s paintings and wanted to know more about him and his work, but I also wanted to get a better grasp of understanding art in general. It’s to my eternal shame that I only have the most surface-level appreciation for most art given my interests and career path. I wanted to get better at reading artwork and working out how to be a better artist myself when it comes to photography.
Hopper’s work, from landscapes to cityscapes, and the lonely people and architecture that live in them have always spoken to me in a way that I understood on a very subconscious level, but never took the time or effort to articulate. Between that and an appreciation for his rendering style and color palettes I just knew I liked them and that was it.
Evan Paschal of Nerdwriter said of Hopper, “I’ve always thought of him in a sort of aromatic way, because his paintings evoke the same kind of feelings and memories in me that I get from the sense of smell, as if he was channeling directly into my limbic system, excavating moments that were stored deeply away.”
The artist Richard Diebenkorn said, “I embraced Hopper completely…It was his use of light and shade and the atmosphere…kind of drenched, saturated with mood, and its kind of austerity. It was the kind of work that just seemed made for me. I looked at it and it was mine.” I couldn’t agree more with Parchal or Diebenkorn.
The book was absolutely fascinating. It explained the periods Hopper worked through and why everything from his choice of perspective to the composition was a deliberate choice to present something that meant more than a nice visual. I found myself skipping ahead to other paintings and trying to decode them before going back and reading the author’s take. By the end I was getting pretty good at it.
I’ve been saving most of the notes I made for something I’m trying to write about photography – something that forces me to focus on what I want to accomplish and say with my shots. But the main takeaways have been the way he treated people in his paintings as silent or completely vacant. And the way he made beautiful landscapes slightly off-kilter with perspective, or drew physical barriers between nature and civilization to establish an uneasy tension. That suddenly made sense to me.
I think I got a lot more from this book than just a deeper understanding of Hopper’s work, but a better understanding of how to appreciate artwork in general.