• American Art auction at Christies

    Sale 2750

    American Art

    5 December 2013, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 17

    Edward Hopper (1882-1967)

    East Wind Over Weehawken

    Price Realised  

    Edward Hopper (1882-1967)
    East Wind Over Weehawken
    signed 'E. Hopper' (lower right)
    oil on canvas
    34 x 50¼ in. (86.4 x 127.6 cm.)
    Painted in 1934.


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    Painted in March 1934, shortly after Edward Hopper's retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and during a moment when he was rethinking his art, East Wind Over Weehawken can be seen as the birth of his fully realized, mature artistic vision. This masterwork manifests Hopper's celebrated aesthetic, which distinguished him from his peers and created a uniquely American iconography that continues to define him as one of the most important and influential artists of the twentieth century.

    As with all his most successful works, in East Wind Over Weehawken, Hopper maintains a strong sense of place and an overt realism, while seeking to capture what he described in 1933 as "the most exact transcription possible of my most intimate impressions of nature." (as quoted in L. Goodrich, Edward Hopper, New York, 1967, p. 161) Here he masterfully elevates a commonplace subject to express the realities of post-Depression life in America.

    Hopper acknowledged East Wind Over Weehawken as one of his most important paintings, writing, "I have always thought of it as one of my best pictures." (unpublished letter to Joseph T. Fraser, April 8, 1952) This sentiment was echoed in 1952 by his long-time dealer, Frank Rehn, who commented, "East Wind Over Weehawken is certainly one of the most Hopperesque canvases he has ever painted." (unpublished letter to Joseph T. Fraser, March 12, 1952)

    Hopper's early years were spent studying at the New York School of Art under Robert Henri, the leading promoter of the Ashcan School. Here he learned about the American realist tradition that began with Thomas Eakins, who Hopper later acknowledged as "one of his heroes" (as quoted in D. Ottinger, et al., Hopper, Paris, 2012, p. 20) and gained an appreciation for the work of Edouard Manet alongside young luminaries that included Gifford Beal, George Bellows, Rockwell Kent and Guy Pène du Bois. Although the mature style of East Wind Over Weehawken marks a distinct departure from Henri's painterly and bravura depictions of the gritty side of the city, the work reflects Hopper's lifelong adoption of one of the older artist's central teachings: to paint the city and street life he knew best. Henri's early encouragement to look to his surroundings for subject matter stayed with Hopper throughout his career, and the subjects of many of his great works, including East Wind Over Weehawken, are those of quotidian, distinctly American scenes which moved him.

    While Hopper's early pictures directly demonstrate Henri's influence with their focus on the bustle of the city, mature works such as East Wind Over Weehawken demonstrate a fundamental shift in both his choice of and his approach to his subject. This distinguished Hopper from his contemporaries and accounts for his singular and lasting artistic vision. In East Wind Over Weekhawken he takes as his subject a sleepy New Jersey town across the Hudson River from Manhattan, where he had traveled on the ferry, seeking architectural inspiration for the home and studio that he and his wife, Jo, were getting ready to build in South Truro on Cape Cod. Here Hopper depicts a characteristically overlooked area on the fringe of the thriving urban hub, presenting an image of the banal reality of American life that captures the overarching character and condition of mid-century existence in the United States.

    Hopper's persistent interest in the vernacular in works such as East Wind Over Weehawken further distinguished him from his peers and set him apart from the artistic movements of the 1930s and 1940s. Lloyd Goodrich wrote of Hopper's distinct style and vision, "His art was based on the ordinary aspects of the contemporary United States, in city, town, and country, seen with uncompromising truthfulness. No artist has painted a more revealing portrait of twentieth-century America. But he was not merely an objective realist. His art was charged with strong personal emotion, with a deep attachment to our familiar everyday world, in all its ugliness, banality, and beauty." (Edward Hopper, New York, 1967, p. 15)

    In East Wind Over Weehawken Hopper presents a quiet street in the "cold raw weather" of a March afternoon. While the houses are all in good order, the financial woes of the town's inhabitants are indicated by the "For Sale" sign and the unkempt lawns. There are no cars on the street or people visible on the porches or in the houses' windows. The only human presence is a distant group of figures at far left, imbuing the work with an eerie silence. Similar to the "For Sale" sign that is vexingly difficult to read, it is impossible to discern for what purpose the group of people at far left has convened. Hopper deliberately crops the image so that the answer appears to be just beyond the edge of the canvas, introducing an unresolved narrative that simultaneously entices and rebuffs the viewer as he or she continually tries to decipher the scene.

    Hopper's oeuvre is defined by works such as East Wind Over Weehawken--scenes of quiet tension that create a visceral unease in the viewer. In his closely cropped interiors, this tension is manifested through estranged human relations. In East Wind Over Weehawken, Hopper masterfully utilizes the various compositional elements and perspective to create the tension and anticipation that are characteristic of his best work. He creates a shallow, stage-like pictorial space, using the impenetrable wall of houses to vexingly focus the viewer's attention in the foreground, and the scene operates much like a film still, a single vision isolated from an overarching narrative. This is further heightened by the subject itself, which is common enough to feel familiar and yet rendered in such an anonymous fashion so as to make it feel foreign. This creates a continuously engaging dichotomy as the viewer continuously tries to reconcile him or herself with the emotions the scene evokes.

    The perspective in East Wind Over Weehawken is as if one is looking through a car window, having come to an intersection. Windows, whether depicted or implied, architectural or vehicular, are a central component of the Hopper's work that imbue his oeuvre with a sense of detached voyeurism--of being outside looking in. In many of Hopper's paintings and watercolors from the 1930s onward, the invisible presence, actual or implied, of the automobile succeeded the artist's earlier practice of peering through windows while riding the El trains in New York City. Hopper's effective and varied use of windows in masterworks such as East Wind Over Weehawken, Nighthawks and Room in New York not only imbues them with a sense of voyeurism, but also compels the viewer to reflect on the isolation of the individual in modern society.

    The sense of psychological distance and tension in East Wind Over Weehawken is further heightened by Hopper's use of form, line and color. He concentrates the composition on the interplay of architecture and employs these elements to create a sense of ambiguity and suspense that is reminiscent of the works of Italian artist Giorgio de Chirico. The repetition of triangular and rectangular forms bisected by strong vertical and horizontal lines gives the painting complexity and rhythm and leads the eye down the street; until it is blocked by the row of houses at the far left and sent back over the forms. As with all of Hopper's most successful works, there is a strong sense of wanting to get beyond the buildings, to see over them, to see behind the building in the foreground, to see around the curve in the road--yet the eye runs up and down the street unable to move beyond and continually forced back into the scene. There is a sense of thwarted exit as the diagonal of one side of the stone wall leads the viewer into the scene, while the diagonal of the other side, leads him or her out, but out to something that is beyond the picture plane. Similarly, the well-lit steps invite the viewer into the various homes, only to be rebuffed by the deeply shadowed porches; and the lightly colored window shades catch the viewer's eye, while the opaque curtains prevent one from seeing in the windows. The prominent lamppost in the foreground--the only pictorial element that spans the entire height of the composition--creates a physical barrier between the viewer and the scene, immediately relegating one to the role of observer rather than participant. Hopper began using this type of vertical visual blockade as early as 1914 in his French café scene, Soir Bleu (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York) and its function in both paintings is similar to the railroad tracks, country roads and waterways of Hopper's other major works--as a pictorial element that physically and visually blocks the viewer from entering the scene.

    The success of East Wind Over Weehawken is due to Hopper's arduous creative process in which every aspect of the composition, both what was to be included and what was to be omitted, was carefully planned out before he put brush to canvas. Lloyd Goodrich wrote of Hopper's method, "His pictures were conceived by a complex process that included first hand observation, memory, severe simplification, and a creative synthesis of all elements into imagery that had universal and permanent meaning. He was a highly conscious composer, and through command of massive form, full-bodied color and all-revealing light, he achieved plastic designs of great substance, power and completeness." (Edward Hopper at Kennedy Galleries, exhibition catalogue, New York, 1977, n.p.) Hopper made eight preparatory drawings for East Wind Over Weehawken, each of a different degree of finish and some only a series of isolated pictorial elements with notes on color and mood. He then translated these grey-scale visual notions onto canvas through the veil of memory to present a finished composition, which conveys his experience of the scene in his compelling and melancholic style and characteristically inspires existential contemplations on isolation in modern society.

    In East Wind Over Weehawken, and throughout his career, Hopper painted aspects of America that few other artists addressed. He portrayed unromantic visions of life in a broad and increasingly modern style, and, while his paintings have formal qualities in common with other Modernists, his art remained steadfastly realist. Hopper emphasized the importance of his realism as an expression of his own, deeper, aesthetic sense. Many of his younger contemporaries, such as Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning, increasingly embraced abstraction, abandoning the American realist tradition to form a new and internationally celebrated school of Abstract Expressionism. However, Hopper was one of the few realist artists admired by these younger painters, which is a testament to his importance during his lifetime. James Thrall Soby wrote, "It always astonished me that these young artists exempted the late Hopper from their acrimony against the realist tradition." William Seitz, the organizer of the 1967 São Paolo Biennale that included East Wind Over Weehawken alongside work by Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg, and Jasper Johns, similarly wrote, "He was highly regarded by advocates of both representational and abstract painting, and by avant-gardists as well as conservatives." (quoted in D. Ottinger, Hopper, Paris, 2012, p. 17)

    Hopper's choice, and his earnest and slightly romantic representation, of seemingly mundane subject matter in seminal works such as East Wind Over Weehawken set him apart from his contemporaries and allowed him to create a new and uniquely American iconography. Today, Hopper's importance as one of the great artists of the twentieth century is recognized on an international level. On the occasion of the most recent retrospective of his work, which included East Wind Over Weehawken, Guillermo Solana and Jean-Paul Cluzel wrote, "His uncommon sensitivity, his distanced perspective on the world, and his sense of drama have earned him a significant place in the history of modern art. Hopper's work not only casts a spotlight on the birth of American modernity, but also marks the advent of a form of artistic creation entirely his own. His work is recognized throughout the world and his paintings, with their very particular atmosphere, now form part of our collective imagination." (Hopper, 2012, n.p.) East Wind Over Weehawken is a testament to the transcendent power of Hopper's aesthetic and a masterwork of twentieth-century art that is as compelling to contemporary viewers as it was when first shown at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1934.

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    Provenance

    The artist.
    [With]Frank K.M. Rehn Galleries, New York.
    Acquired by the present owner from the above, 1952.


    Pre-Lot Text

    Property from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Sold to Support the Acquisition Endowment


    Literature

    Artist's ledger: Book II, 1907-62, p. 5.
    Whitney Museum of American Art, Second Biennial Exhibition of Contemporary American Painting, exhibition checklist, New York, 1934, p. 8, no. 38.
    The Corcoran Gallery of Art, The Fourteenth Biennial Exhibition of Contemporary American Oil Paintings, exhibition catalogue, Washington, D.C., 1935, pp. 66, 109, no. 325, illustrated.
    H.S. Francis, "The Fifteenth Exhibition of Contemporary American Oils," The Bulletin of the Cleveland Museum of Art, vol. 22, no. 6, June 1935, p. 105.
    E. Brace, "Edward Hopper," Magazine of Art, vol. 30, May 1937, p. 277.
    Department of Fine Arts, Carnegie Institute, An Exhibition of Paintings, Water Colors, and Etchings by Edward Hopper, exhibition catalogue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1937, n.p., no. 5.
    R.M. Coates, "The Art Galleries: One Hundred Fifteen Americans--And Others," The New Yorker, November 27, 1937, p. 44.
    "Four American Artists Look at America," Vogue, vol. 91, February 1, 1938, p. 84, illustrated (as Side Street in Weehawken).
    Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, The One Hundred and Thirty-fourth Annual Exhibition of Painting and Sculpture, exhibition checklist, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1939, no. 88, illustrated.
    The Art Institute of Chicago, The Fifty-fourth Annual Exhibition of American Paintings and Sculpture, exhibition catalogue, Chicago, Illinois, 1943, n.p., no. 6.
    The American Academy of Arts and Letters and The National Institute of Arts and Letters, Works of Newly Elected Members and Recipients of 'Arts and Letters Grants', New York, 1945, exhibition checklist, p. 6, no. 1.
    The Century Association, Catalogue of the Fall Exhibition of Work by Artist Members, exhibition checklist, New York, 1946.
    University of Iowa, 3rd Summer Exhibition of Contemporary Art, exhibition checklist, Iowa City, Iowa, 1947, no. 52.
    Cincinnati Art Museum, An American Show: The Cincinnati Art Museum Presents a Selection of Paintings by Six Living American Artists, exhibition catalogue, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1948, n.p., no. 24.
    L. Goodrich, Edward Hopper, Harmondsworth, England, 1949, p. 10, pl. 16, illustrated.
    L. Goodrich, Edward Hopper Retrospective Exhibition, exhibition catalogue, New York, 1950, pp. 10, 15, 55, no. 43, pl. 16, illustrated.
    University of Arizona, A Retrospective Exhibition of Oils and Watercolors by Edward Hopper, exhibition catalogue, Tucson, Arizona, 1963, p. 35, no. 29 (as Wind Over Weehawken).
    L. Goodrich, Edward Hopper, exhibition catalogue, New York, 1964, pp. 33, 65, no. 29, illustrated.
    L. Goodrich, "Portrait of the Artist," Woman's Day, February 1965, n.p., illustrated.
    J. Lanes, "Retrospective of Edward Hopper at the Art Institute of Chicago and at the Whitney Museum in New York," The Burlington Magazine, vol. 107, January 1965, p. 45.
    W.C. Seitz, L. Goodrich, São Paulo 9, exhibition catalogue, Washington, D.C., 1967, pp. 21, 22, 158, no. 18, illustrated.
    J. Lanes, "Edward Hopper: French Formalist, Ash Can Realist, Neither or Both?" Artforum, vol. 7, October 1968, p. 47, illustrated.
    L. Goodrich, Edward Hopper, New York, 1971, pp. 99, 100, 142, illustrated.
    The Journal of the American Medical Association, vol. 225, no. 3, July 16, 1973, cover illustration.
    G.A. Scott, "Bookshelf," The Commonwealth, vol. 40, 1973, p. 64.
    P.K. Conkin, D. Burner, A History of Recent America, New York, 1974, cover illustration.
    Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Portrait of Young America: A Selection of Paintings from the Collection of Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, exhibition checklist, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1975, p. 4, no. 21.
    The Spectator, vol. 235, 1975, p. 58.
    The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, In This Academy: The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 1805-1976, A Special Bicentennial Exhibition, exhibition catalogue, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1976, pp. 222-23, 309, no. 285, illustrated.
    A. Ross, ed., The London Magazine, vol. 17, 1977, p. 66.
    M.W. Brown, The Modern Spirit: American Painting 1908-1935, exhibition catalogue, London, 1977, pp. 66, 72, no. 129, illustrated.
    J.P. Domecq, "Edward Hopper, ou l'énigme à plat," XXe Siècle, vol. 50, June 1978, pp. 20, 22, illustrated.
    G. Levin, Edward Hopper: The Art and the Artist, exhibition catalogue, New York, 1980, pp. 46, 194, pl. 248, illustrated.
    Arts Council of Great Britain, Edward Hopper, 1882-1967, exhibition catalogue, London, 1981, pp. 9, 44, no. 84.
    J. Spurling, "Standing Still," New Statesman, vol. 101, February 20, 1981, p. 23.
    N. Heller, J. Williams, Painters of the American Scene (formerly The Regionalists), New York, 1982, p. 117, fig. 51, illustrated.
    G. Levin, Hopper's Places, exhibition catalogue, New York, 1985, pp. 20, 25, pl. 2, illustrated.
    V. Raynor, "The Unusual, the Instructive and the Mysterious at Rutgers," The New York Times, October 20, 1985, p. 20.
    R. Hobbs, Edward Hopper, New York, 1987, p. 96, illustrated.
    N. Fresella-Lee, The American Paintings in the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts: An Illustrated Checklist, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1989, p. 64, no. 643.
    R. Coles, "On Edward Hopper, Loneliness, and Children," The New York Times, March 3, 1991.
    C. Schwartz, F.H. Perrell, American Realism Between the Wars: 1919-1941, exhibition catalogue, Roslyn, New York, 1994, pp. 9, 10, 61, fig. 2, illustrated.
    G. Levin, Edward Hopper: A Catalogue Raisonné, New York, 1995, vol. III, pp. 236-37, no. O-294, illustrated.
    R.E. Probst, Elements of Literature: Literature of the United States with Literature of the Americas, New York, 1997, p. 658, illustrated.
    G. Levin, Edward Hopper: An Intimate Biography, New York, 1998, p. 257.
    G. Levin, The Complete Oil Paintings of Edward Hopper, New York, 2001, pp. 236-37, no. O-294, illustrated.
    Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 1805-2005: 200 Years of Excellence, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 2005, pp. 219, 309, pl. 117, illustrated.
    W. Wells, Silent Theatre: The Art of Edward Hopper, London, 2007, pp. 182, 185, no. 132, illustrated.
    L. Sherman, E.R. Gaulkin, Images of America: Weehawken, Charleston, South Carolina, 2009, p. 46, illustrated.
    D. Ottinger, et al., Hopper, exhibition catalogue, Paris, 2012, pp. 39, 202, 332, no. 128, illustrated.
    G. Souter, Edward Hopper: Light and Dark, New York, 2012, p. 140.


    Exhibited

    New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Second Biennial Exhibition of Contemporary American Painting, November 27, 1934-January 10, 1935, no. 38.
    Washington, D.C., The Corcoran Gallery of Art, The Fourteenth Biennial Exhibition of Contemporary American Oil Paintings, March 24-May 5, 1935, no. 325.
    Cleveland, Ohio, The Cleveland Museum of Art, The Fifteenth Annual Exhibition of American Oil Paintings, June 7-July 7, 1935.
    Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Carnegie Institute, An Exhibition of Paintings, Water Colors, and Etchings by Edward Hopper, March 11-April 25, 1937, no. 5.
    New York, Museum of Modern Art, Exhibition of American Paintings for Paris, November 9-December 13, 1937.
    Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, The One Hundred and Thirty-fourth Annual Exhibition of Painting and Sculpture, January 29-March 5, 1939, no. 88.
    Chicago, Illinois, The Art Institute of Chicago, The Fifty-fourth Annual Exhibition of American Paintings and Sculpture, October 28-December 12, 1943, no. 6.
    New York, The American Academy of Arts and Letters and The National Institute of Arts and Letters, Works of Newly Elected Members and Recipients of 'Arts and Letters Grants,' May 19-June 29, 1945, no. 1.
    New York, The Century Association, The Fall Exhibition of Work by Artist Members, November 6-December 31, 1946.
    Iowa City, Iowa, University of Iowa, 3rd Summer Exhibition of Contemporary Art, June 15-July 30, 1947, no. 52.
    Cincinnati, Ohio, Cincinnati Art Museum, An American Show: The Cincinnati Art Museum Presents a Selection of Paintings by Six Living American Artists, October 1-November 5, 1948, no. 24.
    New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, and elsewhere, Edward Hopper Retrospective Exhibition, February 11-March 26, 1950, no. 43.
    Venice, Italy, The American Pavilion, XXVI Venice Biennale, June 15-October 19, 1952.
    Richmond, Virginia, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Judge the Jury, February 13-March 22, 1953.
    Providence, Rhode Island, Rhode Island School of Design, Museum of Art, Paintings by Hopper and Corbino, March 7-28, 1956.
    Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Fidelity Philadelphia Trust Co., December 3, 1958-January 6, 1959, on loan.
    Tucson, Arizona, University of Arizona Art Gallery, A Retrospective Exhibition of Oils and Watercolors by Edward Hopper, April 20-May 19, 1963, no. 29.
    New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, and elsewhere, Edward Hopper Retrospective Exhibition, September 30-November 29, 1964, no. 29.
    São Paulo, Brazil, Museum of Modern Art, and elsewhere, São Paulo 9, September 23, 1967-January 8, 1968.
    Jackson, Mississippi, Old Capitol Museum, and elsewhere, 200 Years of American Art from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, September 18-November 30, 1970.
    London, The Embassy of the United States of America, and elsewhere, Young America: A Selection of Paintings from the Collection of Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, July 4-25, 1975, no. 21.
    Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, In This Academy: The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 1805-1976, A Special Bicentennial Exhibition, April 22-December 31, 1976, no. 285.
    Edinburgh, Scotland, Royal Scottish Academy, and elsewhere, The Modern Spirit: American Painting 1908-1935, August 20-September 11, 1977, no. 129.
    New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, and elsewhere, Edward Hopper: The Art and the Artist, September 16, 1980-January 18, 1981, no. 84.
    New Brunswick, New Jersey, Rutgers University, Jane Vorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, Hopper's Places, September 8-November 3, 1985.
    Roslyn, New York, Nassau County Museum of Art, American Realism Between the Wars, April 10-June 5, 1994.
    Madrid, Spain, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, and elsewhere, Hopper, June 12-September 16, 2012.


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