South of Washington Square is an engaging drawing that demonstrates Edward Hopper's skill as a draftsman and links important themes that he explored throughout his career. Hopper's studio and apartment, where he lived for most of his life, was located at 3 Washington Square in New York's Greenwich Village. The New York street scene depicted in the present work harkens back to Hopper's education and early career working in the Ashcan style. A primary aim of the Ashcan artists was to capture the vivacity of quotidian urban scenes. The closely grouped figures in the present work are executed in a rougher aesthetic than the background elements. Hopper rendered the figures in energetic strokes of heavily layered charcoal, which imbues the scene with the energy and movement of the bustling crowd.
South of Washington Square can also be viewed as a foreshadowing the subjects of Hopper's later work. The architecture of New York, and Hopper's neighborhood specifically, remained an important subject throughout his career. For example, Hopper's iconic oil Early Sunday Morning (1930, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York) depicts a row of low buildings in Greenwich Village from across the street. The perspective of capturing a scene at street level, as is implemented here, also remained a significant element in Hopper's compositions. The key development in Hopper's latter works that diverged from the Ashcan influence was the sense of a permeating silence, where the crowd in the South of Washington Square would likely have been replaced in later works with a lone figure, or void of inhabitants altogether.
The wide variety of effects in line and texture seen in South of Washington Square--from the delicately and fully rendered buildings to the bold, roughness of the figures--presents a wonderful example of Hopper's mastery at manipulating the charcoal medium. Carter Foster, Steven and Ann Ames Curator of Drawing at the Whitney Museum of American Art, has written on the significance of drawing in Hopper's ouevre that, "he was fully at home in his technique, one he mastered before any other and practiced more thoroughly than oil, watercolor, and etching combined. His accomplishments as a draftsman can reasonably be seen as the most significant constant over his long career, one that stretches across and thus ties together the nearly eight decades during which he made his extraordinary contributions to modern art.” (Hopper Drawing, exhibition catalogue, New York, 2013, p. 58)