Edward Hopper at the MFA

My mom and I went to the Edward Hopper exhibit at the MFA yesterday. It was fabulous. There were so many paintings there that I had admired in books or prints or postcards but had never seen in real life. Nighthawks, of course. And Chop Suey, on the left, which I always thought was my favorite. But after seeing the paintings in person, while I still love Chop Suey (the painting, not the dish ... I had a conversation today about the difference between "regular" Chop Suey and American Chop Suey but that was just a coincidence) I've decided that my favorite is actually Automat.

The paintings, up close, are not exactly what I imagined--especially the ones of women. The paint is thicker, more layered and textured than I expected. In most of the paintings, it looks as if the women are wearing clay masks. That blank look that so many of Hopper's women wear (like the one on the woman in the green sweater in Chop Suey, and the woman sitting alone with her cup of coffee in Automat, left, and of the many paintings he did of women dressed or undressed but always alone in hotel rooms) is much more intense in person. It's uncomfortable, sometimes, to look at them. Also, Hopper, himself, was not what I expected. He looks arrogant in one self-portrait. Like a banker in another. Somehow I thought he would be more artistic looking, more romantic. Why did I think he was a romantic? I think it's because of all those paintings of women who are alone. These paintings seem so intimate, so personal. I assumed that he felt something for them. But after seeing them in person, at all those blank stares and awkward poses and unflattering points of view, I'm not sure how he felt about them after all.

Hopper's notebooks were featured in the exhibit, but under glass and so you could only see the few pages that were open. He made sketches of each painting he made and made notes about what kind of paint he used, what colors, where he painted it, etc. His wife added how much each painting sold for, calculated his two-thirds cut, and sometimes made funny little comments about the paintings. You can browse virtual versions of one of Hopper's notebooks online (not sure how long this feature will remain available on the MFA site). You can flip through the pages and zoom in on each one. Very cool.

I also took some really nice photographs which I will try to post soon. (I'm always inspired by a trip to the museum.)

Anyway, I enjoyed the show very much. What I did NOT enjoy, however, was the woman whose cell phone went off not once but TWICE and who, rather than dying of shame, smashing her phone against the nearest rock to get it to stop ringing or racing out of the exhibit hall as if her hair was on fire, actually answered the phone and started talking on it. In fact, the other people at the exhibit didn't even seem to notice (except to check that their own phones were off). Apparently this is just normal behavior now, to talk on your cell phone in restaurants, at movies, in museums and during weddings and funerals and AA meetings.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Excellent review...