Dictionary of Art and Artists


that Changed the World


  Lascaux Caves Manesse illuminated Massys Callot Friedrich Picasso
  Tutankhamen's tomb Lorenzetti Grunewald Rembrandt Constable Matisse
  Europa and Minotaur Karlstein Castle Baldung Claude Lorrain Delacroix Marc
  Banquet Tomb Limbourg brothers Altdorfer Velazquez Turner Kandinsky
  Pompeii Van Eyck Cranach Vermeer Ingres Monet
  Birth of Christianity Della Francesca Holbein Rigaud Manet Chirico
  Hagia Sophia Uccello Titian Watteau Burne-Jones Modigliani
  Book of Kells Mantegna Bruegel Canaletto Seurat Chagall
  St Benedict Botticelli Vicentino Boucher Van Gogh Kahlo
  Bayeux Tapestry Anonymous Arcimboldo Fragonard Toulouse-Lautrec Dali
  Donizo manuscript Durer El Greco Gainsborough Munch Ernst
  Liber Scivias Bosch Theodore de Bry John Trumbull Cezanne Hopper
  Carmina Burana Da Vinci Caravaggio David Gauguin Bacon
  Falcon Book Michelangelo Rubens Gros Degas Warhol
  Giotto Raphael Brouwer Goya Klimt  

From Lascaux to Warhol

Supreme art is a traditional statement of certain heroic and religious truth,
passed on from age to age, modified by individual genius,
but never abandoned.

William Butler Yeats




The Silent Observer

An American dream



Dusk gently smoothes crispangled streets. Dark presses tight the steaming asphalt city, crushes the fretwork of windows and lettered signs and chimneys and water-tanks and ventilators and fire-escapes and moldings and patterns and corrugations and eyes and hands and neckties into blue chunks, into black enormous blocks. Under the rolling heavier heavier pressure windows blurt light. Night crushes bright milk out of arclights, squeezes the sullen blocks until they drip red, yellow, green into streets resounding with feet. All the asphalt oozes light. Light spurts from lettering on roofs, mills dizzily among wheels, stains rolling tons of sky.

John Dos Passos, Manhattan Transfer, 1925


In Edward Hopper's urban pictures there are no skyscrapers. Nor are there any massive highway systems, sprawling strip-malls, factories or slums. African-Americans, Hispanics or Asians are also absent from his city scenes. Hopper, a native New Yorker, studied commercial art, attended art school and made several tours of Europe before starting out as a commercial artist with an advertising firm. He only painted, middle-class white America, with occasional references to its mechanical civilisation: a deserted filling station or an abandoned typewriter. Still he is regarded as the greatest Realist painter of his generation. Hopper's paintings record everyday American life, circa 1920—1960, but he particularly emphasised its dreariness. He refused to sing paeans of praise to the "land of unlimited possibilities". He thought America "hideously chaotic" and directed his attention to the everyday philistines, those who did not start off washing dishes or would not end up millionaires on Long Island. Portraying the mundane and seemingly joyless activities of their daily lives, he eschewed overt technical brilliance and painterly precision. There is always a tragic, paralyzing monotony, a creeping anxiety, whether he is hinting at endless unpopulated expanses behind the trees along a deserted road or the grim dinginess of Manhattan tenements viewed in the glare from an elevated railway. Hopper often sketched his figures against the backdrop of New York City, where 3.5 million anonymous lives were already swallowed up by the early twentieth century.

Few paintings are more haunting than Nigkthawks. Hopper himself said that the work showed a restaurant at an intersection of Greenwich Avenue. He had simplified the melancholy scene and enlarged the restaurant. He reflected that he had more or less instinctively tried to paint the loneliness of a big city. The starkness of Hopper's approach may well have been inspired by Ernest Hemingway. Hopper found Hemingway's short story, The Killers, written in the 1920s, to be refreshingly different from what one usually encountered when leafing through an American magazine. The authenticity of Hemingway's work contrasted sharply with the pretentious, sugary pap churned out by his contemporaries. Hopper thought Hemingway refused to make concessions to popular taste, never deviating from the truth and offering no delusive hopes at the end. Like Hemingway, Hopper never sugar-coated anything.


Edward Hopper


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