Hopper’s Easel

A few weeks ago I began working on a blog post about art and carpentry. The ability to build things with one’s own two hands is an invaluable skill for artists of all sorts. I’ve seen many a canvas being stretched throughout my years spent in art studios. And just the other day I sat on the sidelines and watched as a sculpture class at the New York Academy of Art constructed the armatures they would use for their molded creations of yours truly. They drilled, hammered, took measurements, and cut wires while I, model-in-waiting, enjoyed observing the process. Probably the reason I have so much respect for carpentry, handmade construction, and woodwork is that I’m not very adept at it myself. I genuinely like tools, even though I don’t know how to work most of them and staple guns scare me. I don’t mind roaming around Home Depot and looking at stuff, even though I almost never buy anything. And love the feeling of unfinished wood, even though I have a fear of splinters. I’m a contradiction, my friends. I really dig carpentry but, alas, I’m a delicate girly girl at heart. Now MEN who can build things with their hands? Yeah I’m totally good with that 😉

Anyway, the blog post I started wasn’t developing the way I had hoped. It still sits in my blog Dashboard as a subpar unfinished draft. I just couldn’t get it to click. Something was missing. Then, the answer to my problem appeared right before my eyes – literally – during my visit to the “Hopper Drawings” exhibit at the Whitney Museum. On display there was an impressive H-frame painting easel which was built by hand by the artist himself in 1924. Edward Hopper used this easel in his studio at 3 Washington Square North until the day he died, in 1967. The painting displayed on the easel is Hopper’s Early Sunday Morning, which depicts a street scene of Seventh Avenue.

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I wasn’t surprised that crowds gathered around this display, many of whom were admiring Hopper’s carpentry skills as much as his painting skills. The wall text did not indicate what kind of wood Hooper used. But the easel had that sturdy, wonderfully weathered, timeworn look that I love in old objects. This baby had been used. And used and used . . .

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Things that are custom made are valued more dearly I think. I’ve known several artists who make their own supplies, sometimes because it’s just cheaper than purchasing from an art supply store and sometimes because they have their own personal preferences. With his easel, Hopper was able to construct it to his own specifications. You’ll notice in Hopper’s paintings that he had a proclivity for the horizontal, meaning his compositions tend to read in a horizontal fashion. His iconic Nighthawks, for example, has a detectable horizontal “line” running across it. So naturally he constructed an easel geared toward wide-set canvases.

Speaking of Nighthawks, there he is. Star of the show:

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Blogging note: the next post will be all the information for the Museworthy Art Show. See you in a couple of days 🙂

11 thoughts on “Hopper’s Easel

  1. cauartprof says:

    Claudia,

    I know this post has not generated a lot of response. I loved this little window into Hopper that I was unaware of. Their decision to place Early Sunday Morning on his homemade easel was brilliant. I have seen a variety of images for the installation of the Hopper show and they all look great. Thanks again for another wonderful post.

    Chris

    • artmodel says:

      Chris,

      Thanks for getting the comments started! The Hopper show was really excellent. I saw it twice, and some of my artist friends went to see it four and five times! The curators at the Whitney did a splendid job.

      Claudia

  2. Claudia,
    Thank you for adding a work by Edward Hopper that I have never seen before! Hopper’s father was said to have Edward wood to make a sailboat in his younger days, but it didn’t turn out as well as was hoped. Good thing his paintings turn out incredibly well!

    John

    • artmodel says:

      John,

      I didn’t know that story about the sailboat! And it’s interesting because at the exhibit there was a great drawing that Hopper made of a sailboat. At least he could draw them if not build them 🙂

      I like your blog a lot! I’ll be reading your posts. And thanks so much for stopping by Museworthy. Welcome!

      Claudia

  3. Fred says:

    I love this new trend of including the artist’s tools such as easels and palettes in an exhibition. It clarifies how the artist uses the mundane to achieve the sublime. And there’s no better place to see an artist’s work than in the studio.

    Hopper’s widescreen compositions and his eye for the effects of light and space make him probably the most influential painter among cinematographers.

    • Elaine says:

      Fred. I couldn’t agree with you more. When I was in Paris I went to the
      Delacroix museum. Not only were his private letters and preparatory
      sketches exhibited, I saw his studio where he painted while living in Paris. His easel, palette and other tools were on view. It was inspiring as was Cezanne’s and Monet’s studios. Claudia and I are planning a trip to the Brandywine Museum and will take a tour of Andrew Wyeth’s
      studio.

    • artmodel says:

      Fred,

      I couldn’t agree with you more. I have a fondness for old objects that served a purpose for someone, artists or otherwise. Antique writing desks, pencil boxes, even vintage cigarette lighters and women’s compacts are all fascinating to me. I have a small collection of vintage goodies 🙂

      Many articles have been written about Hopper’s influence of film photography like you mentioned. Among the works at the Whitney exhibit was Hopper’s wonderful painting “New York Movie”, with all the preparatory sketches.

      Thanks for your comments!

      Claudia

  4. Jim O'Neil says:

    I quite agree with Chris’s comment, using the easel as part of the presentation was brilliant. As, of course, is you post concerning same!

    • artmodel says:

      Thanks so much Jim! It was a popular display. It created a kind of intimacy with the artist that you can’t always get from a painting just hanging on the wall.

      Claudia

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