TIMELINE

Edward Hopper (1882–1967) produced some of the most enduringly popular images in American art. Throughout his career, he created quiet, yet riveting pictures of ordinary people and places, which in his hands became dramatic scenes that express a sense of isolation, anomie, and the bittersweet comfort of being alone. His images of New York diners, movie palaces, apartments, and offices reflect urban life in America between the world wars; his light-filled watercolors of the New England coast and its architecture evoke the austere beauty of the region.

Born in Nyack, New York, at the end of the Gilded Age—a era of remarkable optimism and national pride—Hopper did not come to artistic maturity until the mid-1920s. Steering clear of artistic fashions and trends, he charted a course that bore the influence of many, but beyond the most general designation as an "American realist" kept him from being comfortably associated with any particular group or school. Tall and taciturn, Hopper was described as an imposing figure whose words were considered weighty and profound. His paintings are similarly laconic, paradoxically filled with emptiness and silence. The scenes he created are still and tense, and often just the slightest action—a gentle breeze rustling a curtain or an absent-minded stroke of a piano key—takes on an unspecified profundity.

Beginning with his 1933 retrospective at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, Hopper received many honors in his lifetime. He himself made no great claims for his art, but his images resonate today as they did with his contemporaries, one of whom aptly described him as "a master whose poetry is realism."