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    Sale 1911

    Important American Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture

    29 November 2007, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 138

    Edward Hopper (1882-1976)

    Vermont Sugar House

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    Edward Hopper (1882-1976)
    Vermont Sugar House
    signed 'Edward Hopper' (lower left)
    watercolor on paper
    14 x 20 in. (35.6 x 50.8 cm.)
    Executed in 1938.


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    Emblematic of Edward Hopper's finest New England watercolors, Vermont Sugar House is a portrait of a traditional subject executed from a thoroughly modern perspective. A testament to Hopper's avowal that, "[m]y aim in painting has always been the most exact transcription possible of my most intimate impressions of nature," (as quoted in The Museum of Modern Art, Edward Hopper: Retrospective Exhibition, exhibition catalogue, New York, 1933, p. 17) the picture speaks to both America's aesthetic past and its future.

    The apogee of a small series of exquisite watercolors that Hopper painted in Royalton, Vermont from August through September 1938, five of which are in museum collections, Vermont Sugar House captures the magnetism of the landscape and manifests Hopper's powerful attraction to the area. Central to his ouevre, "New England provided Hopper with motifs which he would turn into icons of American art...New England led Hopper into the realms of light and shadow. Under the spell of the region's translucent and tonic air, he painted away to his heart's desire. His very soul, it would seem, fell in sync with the poetry and spirit of the place. If indelibly American in his art, Hopper was also thoroughly New England." (C. Little, Edward Hopper's New England, San Francisco, California, 1993, p. VI)

    The only work in the series that incorporates a building, Vermont Sugar House is a synthesis of the two most prominent themes in Hopper's work: landscape and architecture. Hopper's fascination with the effects of light and shadow on a structure's varied forms, led him to revisit the motif throughout his career, and to feature buildings prominently in many of his major works. The appeal of New England architecture for Hopper was twofold as he also saw it as a truly native symbol. Having studied in Europe early in his career he believed that it was time for American artists to break from the foreign aesthetic and to create their own iconographic canon. Hopper wrote in his essay, Notes on Painting, "If an apprenticeship to a master has been necessary, I think we have served it. Any further relation of such a character can only mean humiliation to us. After all we are not French and never can be and any attempt to be so, is to deny our inheritance and try to impose upon ourselves a character that can be nothing but a veneer upon the surface." (as quoted in Edward Hopper: Retrospective Exhibition, p. 17) Exemplary of the candid luminosity with which Hopper captured his best landscapes, Vermont Sugar House fulfills Hopper's goal, and speaks to a new aesthetic that is simultaneously modern and traditional.

    Staunchly Puritan in construction, the allure of the sugar house lies in its varied roofs, repeated triangular forms and its organic relationship with the surrounding landscape. In this architectural portrait, Hopper approaches his subject from above and places it prominently in the foreground. He bathes the majority of the house in strong New England light to enhance its austere, planar forms which are echoed in the taupe slope of land in the foreground. The washes in both the house and the landscape alternate between subtle and bold, their texture between sumptuous and flat, adding complexity, rhythm and cohesion to the composition. The lush, saturated greens of the surrounding landscape act as a foil for the deep browns and soft grays of the sugar house, further enhancing each element.

    A visual homage that manifests Hopper's unique vision of the New England countryside, Vermont Sugar House captures an ephemeral moment in the encounter between the artist and his subject. The work celebrates New England's terrain and architecture, their history implicit, yet remains triumphantly fresh and modern, as Hopper does not merely document the place, rather he infuses it with his perspective and sentiment. "The landscape Hopper saw, as an artist...It exists only in his paintings, nowhere else. What matters, artistically speaking, isn't the actual view Hopper saw during his summers...What matters is the inner view that resulted in those painted landscapes." (V. Klinkenborg, "The Hopper Landscape," The New York Times, September 26, 2007)

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    Provenance

    The artist.
    Oliver James, New York, acquired from the above, 1941.
    The Estate of Helen James Fane, San Diego, California.
    Sotheby Parke Bernet, New York, October 28, 1976, lot 189.
    Kennedy Galleries, Inc., New York, acquired from the above.
    Transco Energy Company, Houston, Texas.
    Sotheby's, New York, The Transco Energy Company Collection of American Watercolors, 3 December 1992, lot 57.
    Acquired by the present owner, circa 1994.


    Pre-Lot Text

    PROPERTY OF A DISTINGUISHED PRIVATE COLLECTION


    Literature

    E. Hopper, Record Book II, 1938, p. 51.
    L. Goodrich, Edward Hopper, New York, 1971, p. 241, illustrated.
    Kennedy Galleries, Inc., Edward Hopper at Kennedy Galleries, exhibition catalogue, New York, 1977, n.p., no. 18, illustrated.
    G. Levin, Edward Hopper: The Art and the Artist, New York, 1980, p. 182, pl. 227, illustrated.
    Kennedy Galleries, Inc., The American Tradition of Realism, Part II: Paintings and Sculpture of the Twentieth Century, exhibition catalogue, New York, 1983, n.p., no. 42, illustrated.
    Denver Art Museum, Contemplating the American Watercolor: Selections from the Transco Energy Company Collection, Houston, Texas, exhibition catalogue, Denver, Colorado, 1985, n.p., illustrated.
    G. Levin, Edward Hopper: A Catalogue Raisonné, vol. II, New York, 1995, p. 295, no. W-326, illustrated.
    G. Levin, Edward Hopper: An Intimate Biography, New York, 1995, p. 305.
    G. Levin, The Complete Watercolors of Edward Hopper, New York, 2001, p. 295, no. W-326, illustrated.
    Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Edward Hopper, exhibition catalogue, Boston, Massachusetts, 2007, p. 98, cat. 92, illustrated.


    Exhibited

    New York, Kennedy Galleries, Inc., Edward Hopper at Kennedy Galleries, May 11-June 8, 1977, no. 18.
    New York, Kennedy Galleries, Inc., The American Tradition of Realism, Part II: Paintings and Sculptures of the Twentieth Century, April-May 1983, no. 42.
    Victoria, Texas, The Nave Museum, American Works of the 19th and 20th Centuries, February-March 1985.
    Denver, Colorado, The Denver Art Museum, and elsewhere, Contemplating the American Watercolor: Selections from the Transco Energy Company Collection, Houston, Texas, May 1985-April 1992.
    Washington, D.C., National Museum of American Art, Edward Hopper: The Watercolors, October 22, 1999-January 3, 2000, no. 52.
    Boston, Massachusetts, Museum of Fine Arts, Edward Hopper, May 6-August 19, 2007, no. 92.