Edward Hopper was born in Nyack, New York in 1882. By the time he was 12 years old, he was already six feet tall, skinny, and gangly. He got made fun of by his classmates, and became painfully shy, spending much of his time alone and drawing. His parents encouraged him to become an illustrator, and he studied at the New York School of Art. He was taught the old-fashioned style of painting meticulously accurate pictures of the real world.
After he finished art school, he took a trip to Paris, where he realized that he had fallen in love with light. He said the light in Paris was unlike any he’d ever seen before.
Hopper later said that Europe had ruined him as a painter, and it took him 10 years to get over it. He spent the next several years working as an illustrator for an advertising agency in New York City, a job that he hated. In his spare time, he drove around and painted uniquely American places: train stations, gas stations, corner saloons.
Hopper had sold only one painting by the time he was 40 years old, but his first major exhibition in 1933 at the Museum of Modern Art made him famous. His pieces in that show had titles like “Houses by the Railroad,” “Manhattan Bridge Loop,” “Room in Brooklyn,” “Roofs of Washington Square,” “Cold Storage Plant,” “Lonely House,” and “Girl on Bridge.” Though his work was more realistic and less experimental than most other painters at the time, he painted his scenes in a way that made them seem especially lonely and eerie.
Hopper was a man of deliberate habits. He lived and worked in the same walk-up apartment in New York’s Washington Square from 1913 until 1967. He ate almost every meal of his adult life in a diner, and he tried never to ride in a taxi. He never had any children with his wife, and he never included a single child in any of his paintings.
Edward Hopper said, “Maybe I am slightly inhuman. … All I ever wanted to do was to paint sunlight on the side of a house.”
July 25, 2012