One of the events I attended at the Cheltenham Literature Festival was a lecture on the American artist Edward Hopper (1882-1967) given by the art historian and critic Rosalind Ormiston. The talk was called Edward Hopper: The darker side of the American dream.
I chose this event because both Alfred Hitchcock and Cornelia Parker had used Edward Hopper’s House by the Railroad as the inspiration for their work, Hitchcock, for the house in the film Psycho, and Parker for The Roof Garden Commission, on show this Autumn at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC.
Ormiston pointed out how Hopper’s work portrays the loneliness of city living. In many of his paintings, a figure (often using his wife as a model, an accomplished artist in her own right) is placed to one side of the canvas, gazing out of a window or door, suggesting all sorts of questions for the viewer’s mind, while in others, the scene simply depicts sunlight casting shadows on an empty room. Hopper, who was fascinated by light, eschewed the artistic trends of the day and “ploughed his own furrow” until his death.
Several facts drew Hopper to my attention. He was born the same year as Virginia Woolf, I had seen Cornelia Parker talking about her installation and my drawing teacher is always emphasising the importance of showing how the light falls on any subject I am trying (not very successfully) to recreate on paper.
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