June 03, 2004
Edward Hopper

EdwardHopperSelfPSm.jpgFollowing my mentions here of Vettriano and of Lempicka, it has been suggested that I also investigate Edward Hopper.

So last night I made a point of watching the Alan Yentob TV show about him.

It was fun. I didn't know any of that about his wife, whom he did not allow to have a separate career as a painter, and who did not allow him to use any other female models but her (and especially not if they would have been in the nude). The Hoppers were inseparable, despite her loving to chatter and him having nothing to say other than with his paint brushes.

EdwardHopperNighthawksDet.jpgEdward Hopper is now officially posh, because Yentob had Doctor Jonathan Miller commenting on his work undisapprovingly. And what was nice was that Miller was commenting on the stories the paintings told and the feelings they evoked, rather than doing artspeak of the more usual sort.

Someone (I didn't record who) said that in America, you have to drive or train-journey past an awful lot of ugly mish-mash places in order to be able to feast your eyes on the occasional beautiful vista. It occurred to me that maybe freedom equals ugliness, in the sense that free people do what they themselves want with their places, rather than what posh or powerful onlookers would like. Free people build their buildings not to look nice to posh people, but to accomplish things – like live, make stuff, or sell stuff to each other.

You want a beautiful country? You could try putting an aesthetically despotic ruling class in command of it. But that may not work. They might forbid and destroy beauty rather than impose it.

EdwardHopperExLTh.jpgThere's another, better way to make beauty out of ugliness, and that is simply to see beauty in ugliness. Hopper was the artist of the American ugliness of his time, and he ended up making it look, to us, now, beautiful. Hopper helps us, deprived of what we love to look at, to love what we must look at (at any rate if we are in America). If you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with … And we do now love the mish-mash stuff that Hopper mostly painted, now that different mish-mash is being built. And if that trick can be done once it can be done again, with the mish-mash places that America is thrashing out now.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 04:24 PM
Category: Painting