New Archival Donations Put Edward Hopper’s Life in Sharp Focus

Thousands of drawings, letters and more are coming to the Edward Hopper House and the Whitney Museum

Edward Hopper, "Little Boy Looking at the Sea" The Arthayer R. Sanborn Hopper Collection Trust

It’s been a good year for Edward Hopper fans: This fall, a rarely seen collection of the American artist’s childhood drawings and memorabilia will go on display at the Edward Hopper House in New York, and last week, the Whitney Museum of American Art received a donation of 4,000 Hopper-related items. 

The Edward Hopper House’s collection explores the artist’s early life. Its focus is fitting: Hopper grew up in the Nyack, New York home, and it currently houses an art center and museum dedicated to preserving his legacy. Hopper’s aesthetic vision is already apparent throughout the museumvisitors can peek through the window of the artist’s childhood bedroom, which overlooks the Hudson River, to see the view that inspired many of Hopper’s later seascapesbut the collection will supplement current holdings with a trove of new insights.

Karen Roberts of New York's Lower Hudson Valley's reports that the archive of more than 1,000 items includes notebooks, tools used in Hopper’s first attic studio and sketches from the artist’s school years. Richard Kendall, a Hopper House board member, tells Roberts that the collection is representative of what “most kids have lying around in their bedrooms when growing up.”

One drawing, which depicts a young boy staring at the sea, graces the back of Hopper’s third-grade report card. The scene was sketched when Hopper was just 9 years old and is reminiscent of the thoughtful solitude that he captures in future works such as "Nighthawks."

Historian Richard Rabinowitz announced the acquisition of the Hopper archive at a local art panel last month. In a press release, he said, “I don't know anywhere else in America where one can still see so acutely how the shapes, colors, and textures of an artist's home and hometown nurtured the development of one of our nation's great artistic careers. We now can trace the path from Hopper's childhood games and schoolwork to art that expresses his deepest aesthetic impulses.”

Whereas the Hopper House collection focuses on the artist’s early years, the Whitney Museum archive explores his later life. According to Artforum, the gift by the Arthayer R. Sanborn Hopper Collection (which also partnered with the Hopper House for its new archive), consists of roughly 4,000 items ranging from Hopper’s letters and notebooks to photographs and other personal ephemera.

The Whitney has a longstanding interest in Hopper. Back in 1920, the artist had his first solo exhibition at the Whitney Studio Club, forerunner to the modern museum, and the Whitney’s current collection includes more than 3,000 Hopper works. Thanks to the new donation, the Whitney will soon house the largest repository of Hopper material.

Carol Troyen, the Kristin and Roger Servison Curator Emerita of American Paintings at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, organized the MFA’s 2007 Hopper retrospective. In a Whitney press release, she explains, “The Hoppers were meticulous record keepers, and the notebooks, photographs, ledgers, correspondence, and even the ticket stubs included in the Sanborns’ generous donation provide insights into the Hopper’s daily routines, their friendships, the economics of his art-making, andperhaps most enlighteningHopper’s private reflections on painting."

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