June 5, 2022
By Arthur H. Gunther III
NYACK, N.Y. — Edward Hopper, famed painter of realism whose “Nighthawks” and other works articulate American solitude as mood, thought and destiny, is ever-present in this village of his 1882 birth.
Hopper House, operating as an art gallery, museum and study center for more than 50 years since volunteers rescued the dilapidated 82 North Broadway family home and renewed it through sweat, donation and some debt, continues to awaken us to the incredible Hudson River light that is everywhere. Young Edward, who began drawing at least at age 5, saw that illumination each morning as it shot up Second Avenue into his bedroom. Today at various times, you can almost touch the light as it also baths the parlor, now the principal gallery.
The museum, which has the combined mission of preserving the home as well as detailing influences on the artist and advancing all manner of art, hopes visitors and villagers alike will observe as Edward did, taking in what contributed to his many paintings, watercolors, prints and sketches, produced almost to the day he died in 1967.
Hopper’s works often include someone in contemplation, say a man sitting on a wooden sidewalk in front of a store (probably his father, a Nyack dry goods merchant) or the “effect of sunlight on the wall of a house,” geometric patterns that seem to be windows inviting the viewer to interpret – the sort of lighting you see all over Nyack.
You spot the “snapshot effect” of his art, moments in time that have an obvious history and the future of which might well be guessed. Look about the Nyack of today, at the woman catching a bus at Cedar and Main, at the couple leaning on a porch rail, at an upstairs window framing humanity. Always a story – here in Nyack, and elsewhere, too. These are Hopper-articulated moments.
Today Edward Hopper is iconic, his “Nighthawks” and other works recognizable worldwide. Exhibitions in Boston, Washington, New York City and Europe have drawn many thousands in reverent communication with an artist who said so little by speech but who in his paintings expressed deeply and extensively facets native to the American being. Hopper offered as much in this quote: “If I could say it in words, there would be no reason to paint. The whole answer is there on the canvas.”
The artist’s boyhood home is part of that “canvas,” a source of the light, real and figurative, that was Hopper’s painting harmony. Nyack helped form the vision of an artist who celebrated American solitude and the great quiet, the self-reliance, even the genius within.
The writer is a retired newspaperman. This essay is adapted from an earlier version.