Edward Hopper (1882-1967)
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more An American Place: The Barney A. Ebsworth Collection
Edward Hopper (1882-1967)

Chop Suey

Edward Hopper (1882-1967)
Chop Suey
signed 'Edward Hopper' (lower right)
oil on canvas
32 x 38 in. (81.3 x 96.5 cm.)
Painted in 1929.
The artist.
[With]Frank K.M. Rehn Gallery, New York.
Mr. and Mrs. Mark Reed, Alexandria, Virginia, acquired from the above, 1950.
[With]Frank K.M. Rehn Gallery, New York.
Mr. and Mrs. Louis Cohen, Great Neck, New York, acquired from the above, 1968.
[With]William Zierler, Inc., New York, 1972.
Acquired by the late owner from the above, 1973.
Artist's Record Book I, p. 57.
G. Pène du Bois, Edward Hopper: American Artist Series, New York, 1931, p. 27, illustrated.
J.C. Bulliet, Art Masterpieces: In a Century of Progress Fine Arts Exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago, exhibition catalogue, Chicago, Illinois, 1933, n.p.
J.C. Bulliet, J. MacDonald, Paintings: An Introduction to Art, New York, 1934, n.p.
"Edward Hopper--Painter and Graver," Index of Twentieth Century Artists, vol. 1, no. 5, July 1934, p. 159.
"Artist Edward Hopper Tells Story of 'Room in New York,'" Lincoln Journal & Star, March 29, 1936, section C-D, p. 7.
E. Brace, "Edward Hopper," Magazine of Art, vol. 30, no. 5, May 1937, p. 278, illustrated.
"This is America," Chicago Daily News, October 30, 1943, p. 2, illustrated.
L. Goodrich, Edward Hopper, New York, 1949, pl. 9, illustrated.
C. Burrows, "Hopper: A Steady Climb to Eminence," The New York Herald Tribune, February 12, 1950, section 5, p. 6, illustrated.
M. Breuning, "The Whitney Hails Edward Hopper," The Art Digest, February 15, 1950, p. 10.
R.M. Coates, "The Art Galleries: Edward Hopper," The New Yorker, February 25, 1950, pp. 77-78.
J.T. Soby, "Arrested Time by Edward Hopper," The Saturday Review, March 4, 1950, pp. 42-43.
"Edward Hopper: Famous American Realist Has Retrospective Show," Life, April 17, 1950, pp. 100-05, illustrated.
S. Burrey, "Edward Hopper: The Emptying Spaces," The Art Digest, April 1, 1955, p. 10.
L. Cooke, "Paintings by Edward Hopper," America Illustrated, July 23, 1958, pp. 56-65, illustrated.
S. Tillim, "Edward Hopper and the Provincial Principle," Arts Magazine, vol. 39, November 1964, pp. 26, 28, illustrated.
L. Bruner, "Pierre Bonnard and Edward Hopper: Two Painters with a Point of View," Toledo Blade, January 17, 1965, section E, p. 4, illustrated.
L. Goodrich, Edward Hopper, New York, 1971, p. 208, illustrated.
J.R. Mellow, "Painter of the City," Dialogue Magazine, vol. 4, 1971, p. 76, illustrated.
G. Levin, Edward Hopper: As Illustrator, New York, 1979, pp. 44, 50, fig. 58, illustrated.
J.W. McRoberts, "The Conservative Realists' Image of America in the 1920s: Modernism, Traditionalism and Nationalism," Ph.D. dissertation, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1980, p. 83n2.
R. Soyer, "'Edward Hopper as Illustrator' by Gail Levin, 'Edward Hopper: The Complete Prints' by Gail Levin,” New Republic, January 12, 1980, p. 35.
A. Kazin, "Hopper's Vision of New York," New York Times Magazine, September 7, 1980, p. 54.
D. Grant, "Edward Hopper's Dark Vision of America," Newsday, September 28, 1980, p. 15, illustrated.
G. Levin, "Edward Hopper: The Art and Artist," U.S.A. Today, November 1980, p. 35, illustrated.
R. Giachetti, "Tutta l'America di Edward Hopper," Epoch, November 8, 1980, p. 79, illustrated.
M. Ronnen, "Two Great Americans," Jerusalem Post Magazine, November 14, 1980, section N, n.p., illustrated.
R. Paulson, "Edward Hopper and Some Precursors," Bennington Review, December 1980, p. 67.
The Art Institute of Chicago: September through December, 1981, Chicago, Illinois, 1981, cover illustration.
E. Siciliano, "La pittura american ha un papa: Hopper," Corriere della Sera, January 24, 1981, p. 14, illustrated.
R. Elovich, "Current and Forthcoming Exhibitions," The Burlington Magazine, vol. 123, February 1981, p. 111, fig. 54, illustrated.
E. Frank, "Edward Hopper: Symbolist in a Hardboiled World," Art News, vol. 80, February 1981, pp. 101-02, illustrated.
W. Feaver, "The Painter of Lonely Streets and Heartbreak Hotels," London Observer, February 1, 1981, pp. 31, 35, illustrated.
J. Russell, "American Light Show," The Times Magazine, February 1, 1981, p. 41, illustrated.
M. Shepherd, "Light on America," The Telegraph, February 15, 1981, p. 17, illustrated.
W. Packer, "Edward Hopper," London Financial Times, February 17, 1981, p. 15, illustrated.
J. Exner, "Komik und Tragik der Zeit," Der Berlin Tagesspiegei, February 28, 1981, p. 4, illustrated.
M.H. Young, "Edward Hopper: The Ultimate Realist," Apollo, vol. 112, March 1981, pp. 185-89, fig. 3, illustrated.
C. Neve, "Early Sunday Morning," Country Life, March 12, 1981, pp. 648-50, fig. 6, illustrated.
P. Allara, "Books," Tufts Criterion, vol. 13, July 1981, p. 18, illustrated.
A. Pohlen, "Der Mythos vom Maler des kleinbürgerlichen Amerika," General Anzeiger, July 14, 1981, p. 9.
R. Hoghe, "Menschen auf Distanz," Die Zeit, July 17, 1981, p. 35.
W. Su, "Einsame Akteure in Edward Hoppers Licht-Schatten-Theater," Siegener Zeitung, August 4, 1981, p. 2, illustrated.
J. De Roey, "Het geheim van Hopper: licht en blauw en wit," Knack, August 19, 1981, p. 96.
D. Elliot, "Edward Hopper's Art--What Is that Feeling?," Chicago Sun-Times, September 17, 1981, p. 6, illustrated.
F. De Vitis, "Edward Hopper: Il pittore e la solitudine," Ciao 2001, November 25, 1981, p. 17, illustrated.
A. Temko, "The Private Sorrow of Edward Hopper," San Francisco Chronicle, December 20, 1981, p. 14.
S. Muchnic, "American Saga of Still Lifes, Stilled Lives," Los Angeles Times, January 10, 1982, p. 79.
J. Tallmer, "The Roots of 'Heaven,'" New York Post, January 14, 1982, p. 26.
"Hopper: Full of Emptiness," Living California, January 17, 1982, p. 15, illustrated.
G. Levin, Edward Hopper, New York, 1984, p. 45, illustrated.
R. Hobbs, Edward Hopper, New York, 1987, p. 48.
H. Liesbrock, Edward Hopper: Vierzig Meisterwerke, Munich, Germany, 1988, p. 17, no. 11, illustrated.
K.A. Marling, Edward Hopper, New York, 1992, no. 5, cover illustration.
G. Glueck, New York: The Painted City, Layton, Utah, 1992, pp. 40-41, illustrated.
A. Waters, “’Chop Suey’ 1919 by Edward Hopper,” NetworkS, vol. 3. no. 2, 1992, pp. 28-29, illustrated.
"The Authority of the Past," Time Magazine, February 3, 1992, p. 47, illustrated.
National Museum of American Art and its Renwick Gallery: March-April 1993, Washington, D.C., 1993, p. 1, illustrated.
J.A. Lewis, "Delightful Impressions: Connoisseurs Spread a Feast for the Eyes at NMAA," The Washington Post, March, 27, 1993, p. G1, G9, illustrated.
M. Constantino, Edward Hopper, Greenwich, Connecticut, 1995, pp. 54-55, illustrated.
J. Greenberg, The American Eye: Eleven Artists of the Twentieth Century, New York, 1995, pp. 27-28, 113, illustrated.
G. Levin, Edward Hopper: A Catalogue Raisonné, vol. III, New York, 1995, pp. 190-91, no. O-265, illustrated.
G. Levin, Edward Hopper: An Intimate Biography, New York, 1995, pp. 172, 221, 285, 699, 773, fig. 40, illustrated.
G. Levin, Edward Hopper, New York, 1995, pp. 41, 45, illustrated.
G. Levin, The Poetry of Solitude: A Tribute to Edward Hopper, New York, 1995, pp. 56-57, 80, illustrated.
R. Perez, The Lining of Our Souls, New York, 1995, p. 21.
“Un regista per l’America,” Arte, June 1995, pp. 3, 52.
M. Kakutani, “In Prose and in Verse, Stark Paens to Hopper,” The New York Times, June 20, 1995, p. B2.
J. Updike, “Edward Hopper’s Polluted Silence,” The New York Review of Books, August 10, 1995, p. 20, illustrated.
C.F. Shepley, “The American Scene, with Meaning,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 3, 1995.
G. Levin, “Edward Hopper: Through the Biographer's Lens,” Art Times, September 12, 1995, p. 12, illustrated.
G. Mori, “Metafisica Americana,” Art Dossier, no. 104, September 1995, pp. 6-7, illustrated.
R. Coles, "Alone in America," The Washington Post, October 15, 1995, p. 11.
The Art of Drawing and Painting, London, 1996, n.p., illustrated.
J. Cartwright, “How Art Mirrors American Life,” London Financial Times, October 25-26, 1997, p. VI, illustrated.
D. Anfam, Mark Rothko, The Works on Canvas: Catalogue Raisonné, New Haven, Connecticut, 1998, pp. 27, 41n19, fig. 35, illustrated.
J. Spring, The Essential Edward Hopper, New York, 1998, pp. 4, 5, 13, 76, illustrated.
V.M. Mecklenburg, Edward Hopper: The Watercolors, New York, 1999, p. 158.
"More than 'Chop Suey'," ARTnews, May 1999, p. 84, illustrated.
P. Plagens, "Millenial Biennial," Newsweek, May 3, 1999, pp. 68-69, illustrated.
G. Trebay, "Made in the U.S.A.," Travel and Leisure, April 1999, pp. 193, 195, illustrated.
J.A. Lewis, "The Century Distilled," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 11, 1999, p. E1, E6, illustrated.
J. Evans, "Chop Suey Has Been Popular for Decades," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 6, 2000, p. 29L, illustrated.
G. Levin, The Complete Oil Paintings of Edward Hopper, New York, 2001, pp. 190-91, no. O-265, illustrated.
J. Abramson, "Hopper's Sunshine," The New York Times, September 1, 2001, p. B4.
T. Barrett, Interpreting Art: Reflecting, Wondering, and Responding, New York, 2002, pp. 163-64, no. 19, illustrated.
Ivo Kranzfelder, Edward Hopper: Vision of Reality, Cologne, Germany, 2002, p. 155, illustrated.
"Of Men and Machines," Museums and Galleries: New York, London, 2002, p. 31, illustrated.
R.G. Renner, Edward Hopper, 1882-1967: Att Transformera Det Verkliga, Cologne, Germany, 2002, pp. 67-69, 71, illustrated.
L. Hawksley, Mini History of Art, Bath, England, 2002, p. 244, illustrated.
M. Venezia, Grandma Moses, New York, 2003, p. 26, illustrated.
A. Berman, Edward Hopper's New York, San Francisco, California, 2005, pp. 68-69, illustrated.
B. Weber, Paintings of New York, 1800-1950, Petaluma, California, 2005, pp. 90, 124, illustrated.
"New York in Hopper's Eyes," The New York Times, March 27, 2005, pp. 1, 7, front page illustration.
J. Appel, A. Guglielmo, Feed Matisse's Fish, New York, 2006, p. 1943, illustrated.
D. Ngo, ed., Art + Architecture: The Ebsworth Collection + Residence, San Francisco, California, 2006, n.p., illustrated.
S. Davidson, ed., Art in America: Three Hundred Years of Innovation, exhibition catalogue, New York, 2007, fig. 87, illustrated.
W. Wells, Silent Theater: The Art of Edward Hopper, New York, 2007, pp. 41-42, 44, 134, 159, 235, fig. 26, illustrated.
The Magazine Antiques, April 2007, cover illustration.
"What's On," The Art Newspaper, no. 180, May 2007, p. 83, illustrated.
Where Magazine, November 2007, cover illustration.
A. Berman, "Hopper," Smithsonian, July 2008, p. 63, illustrated.
M.F. Kohl, K. Solga, Great American Artists for Kids, Chicago, Illinois, 2008, p. 34, illustrated.
S. Farr, "'Hopper's Women' Captures Unguarded Moments," The Seattle Times, November 14, 2008, p. 1,41, illustrated.
A. Coe, Chop Suey: A Cultural History of Chinese Food in the United States, New York, 2009, pp. 197-98.
C.E. Foster, Edward Hopper, exhibition catalogue, Milan, Italy, 2010, pp. 46, 48-49, fig. 17, illustrated.
G. Young, Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge: The Ultimate Guide to Mastery, with Authentic Recipes and Stories, New York, 2010, pp. xiii, 236, illustrated.
M. Knoedler & Co., Inc., Milton Avery: Industrial Revelations, exhibition catalogue, New York, 2010, p. 12, illustrated.
C.W. Sargent, "Note to New Yorkers: We Also Have a Claim as a Hopper Inspiration," Portland Monthly, September 2010, illustrated.
P. Rhode, et al., Economic Evolution and Revolution in Historical Time, Stanford, California, 2011, p. 420.
B. Ebsworth, A World of Possibility: An Autobiography, Hunts Point, Washington, 2012, pp. 161-63.
D. Lyons, B. O'Doherty, Edward Hopper: Paintings & Ledger Book Drawings, New York, 2012, p. 17.
G. Souter, Edward Hopper: Light and Dark, New York, 2012, pp. 125, 154-55, illustrated.
C.E. Foster, et al., Hopper Drawing, exhibition catalogue, New York, 2013, p. 46.
C. Parravani, Her: A Memoir, New York, 2013, p. 141.
N.K. Anderson, C. Brock, Andrew Wyeth: Looking Out, Looking In, exhibition catalogue, Washington, D.C., 2014, p. 59, fig. 22, illustrated.
A.F. Smith, ed., Savoring Gotham: A Food Lover's Companion to New York City, New York, 2015, n.p.
H. Liu, From Canton Restaurant to Panda Express: A History of Chinese Food in the United States, New Brunswick, New Jersey, 2015, pp. 59-60, 83, 170n44.
Rochester, New York, Memorial Art Gallery, American Print Makers, January 1930, no. 191.
Cincinnati, Ohio, Cincinnati Art Museum, The Thirty-Seventh Annual Exhibition of American Art, June 1-29, 1930, no. 45, pl. 45, illustrated.
St. Louis, Missouri, City Art Museum, Twenty-Fifth Annual Exhibition of Paintings by American Artists, September 20-November 2, 1930, p. 25, no. 52, illustrated.
Chicago, Illinois, Art Institute of Chicago, The Forty-Third Annual Exhibition of American Paintings and Sculpture, October 30-December 14, 1930, no. 84.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 126th Annual Exhibition, January 25-March 15, 1931, p. 13, no. 229, illustrated.
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Carnegie Institute, An Exhibition of Modern American Paintings, April 28-May 30, 1932, no. 26.
Lincoln, Nebraska, Nebraska Art Association, University of Nebraska, Forty-Third Annual Exhibition of Paintings, February 16-March 19, 1933.
Springfield, Massachusetts, The Springfield Museum of Fine Arts, Opening Exhibition, October 7-November 2, 1933, no. 194.
Kansas City, Missouri, The William Rockhill Nelson Gallery of Art, A Loan Exhibition of American Paintings Since 1900, December 10, 1933-January 4, 1934.
Ottawa, Canada, National Gallery of Canada, Exhibition of Contemporary Paintings by Artists of the United States, December 7-31, 1934, p. 12, no. 46, illustrated.
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Carnegie Institute, An Exhibition of Paintings, Watercolors, and Etchings by Edward Hopper, March 11-April 25, 1937, no. 15.
Chicago, Illinois, Art Institute of Chicago, The Fifty-Fourth Annual Exhibition of American Paintings and Sculpture, October 28-December 12, 1943, no. 1.
New York, The American Academy of Arts and Letters & The National Institute of Arts and Letters, Works by Newly Elected Members and Recipients of 'Arts and Letters Grants,' May 19-June 29, 1945, no. 2.
New York, Whitney Museum of American Art; Boston, Massachusetts, Museum of Fine Arts; Detroit, Michigan, The Detroit Institute, Edward Hopper, February 11-July 2, 1950, pp. 15, 55, no. 32, pl. 9, illustrated.
New York, Whitney Museum of American Art; Chicago, Illinois, Art Institute of Chicago; Detroit, Michigan, Detroit Institute of Arts; St. Louis, Missouri, City Art Museum, Edward Hopper, September 29, 1964-May 9, 1965, pp. 20, 65, no. 18, illustrated.
West Palm Beach, Florida, Norton Museum of Art, Palm Beach Collects, May 11-October 1970.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Edward Hopper Retrospective, September 24-October 31, 1971, no. 95.
New York, Whitney Museum of American Art; Amsterdam, Netherlands, Stedelijk Museum; Dusseldorf, Germany, Städtische Kunsthalle; Chicago, Illinois, Art Institute of Chicago; San Francisco, California, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Edward Hopper: The Art and the Artist, September 16, 1980-February 14, 1982, pp. 52, 235, pl. 328, illustrated.
London, Hayward Gallery, Edward Hopper, 1882-1967, February 11-March 29, 1981, pp. 23, 42, no. 72.
St. Louis, Missouri, St. Louis Art Museum; Honolulu, Hawaii, Honolulu Academy of Arts; Boston, Massachusetts, Museum of Fine Arts, The Ebsworth Collection: American Modernism, 1911-1947, November 20, 1987-June 5, 1988, pp. 14, 28-30, 110-11, 208-09, no. 33, illustrated.
Washington, D.C., National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, American Impressions: Masterworks from American Art Forum Collections, March 27-July 5, 1993, pp. 10-11, no. 13, illustrated.
New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Edward Hopper and the American Imagination, June 22-October 15, 1995, pl. 21, illustrated.
Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Seattle Collects Paintings: Works from Private Collections, May 22-September 7, 1997.
New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, The American Century: Art and Culture, 1900-2000, April 23-August 22, 1999, p. 181, no. 340, illustrated.
Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art; Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Twentieth-Century American Art: The Ebsworth Collection, March 5-November 12, 2000, pp. 22, 33, 136-39, no. 30, illustrated.
Boston, Massachusetts, Museum of Fine Arts; Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art; Chicago, Illinois, Art Institute of Chicago, Edward Hopper, May 6, 2007-May 11, 2008, pp. 20, 184-85, no. 101, cover illustration.
Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Edward Hopper's Women, November 13, 2008-March 1, 2009, pp. 6, 33-39, 42, no. 7, cover illustration.
Des Moines, Iowa, Des Moines Art Center, Edward Hopper: Images & Influence, December 18, 2009-April 23, 2010.
Paris, France, Grand Palais, Hopper, October 10, 2012-January 28, 2013, pp. 196-97, 328, no. 125, illustrated.
Special notice
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial interest in the outcome of the sale of certain lots consigned for sale. This will usually be where it has guaranteed to the Seller that whatever the outcome of the auction, the Seller will receive a minimum sale price for the work. This is known as a minimum price guarantee. This is such a lot. On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial interest in the outcome of the sale of certain lots consigned for sale. This will usually be where it has guaranteed to the Seller that whatever the outcome of the auction, the Seller will receive a minimum sale price for the work. This is known as a minimum price guarantee. Where Christie's has provided a Minimum Price Guarantee it is at risk of making a loss, which can be significant, if the lot fails to sell. Christie's therefore sometimes chooses to share that risk with a third party. In such cases the third party agrees prior to the auction to place an irrevocable written bid on the lot. The third party is therefore committed to bidding on the lot and, even if there are no other bids, buying the lot at the level of the written bid unless there are any higher bids. In doing so, the third party takes on all or part of the risk of the lot not being sold. If the lot is not sold, the third party may incur a loss. The third party will be remunerated in exchange for accepting this risk based on a fixed fee if the third party is the successful bidder or on the final hammer price in the event that the third party is not the successful bidder. The third party may also bid for the lot above the written bid. Where it does so, and is the successful bidder, the fixed fee for taking on the guarantee risk may be netted against the final purchase price.

Third party guarantors are required by us to disclose to anyone they are advising their financial interest in any lots they are guaranteeing. However, for the avoidance of any doubt, if you are advised by or bidding through an agent on a lot identified as being subject to a third party guarantee you should always ask your agent to confirm whether or not he or she has a financial interest in relation to the lot.

Brought to you by

Sara Friedlander
Sara Friedlander

Lot Essay

We would like to thank Dr. Gail Levin for her assistance with cataloguing this lot.

As in his masterwork ‘Nighthawks’ (1942, Art Institute of Chicago), Edward Hopper’s 1929 painting Chop Suey distills the atmosphere of an everyday eatery into a cinematic scene that at once suggests a specific story as well as alludes to broader themes of social isolation, gender roles and even the art historical tradition through which an artist can reflect such issues within his work. The most iconic painting by Hopper left in private hands, Chop Suey epitomizes the psychologically complex meditations for which the artist is best known, while uniquely capturing the zeitgeist of the city during one of its most fascinating eras of transition.

In his early years, Hopper studied painting at the New York School of Art under the guidance of the leading promoter of the Ashcan School, the artist Robert Henri. His classmates at the school included George Bellows, Rockwell Kent and Guy Pène du Bois. While transforming and modernizing his style over his lifetime, Hopper always embraced a central teaching of Henri: to paint the city and street life he knew best. Whether during his studies in Paris or his first years in New York as an illustrator, Hopper would sit in cafés and find inspiration through people-watching. Yet, while his contemporaries like Pène du Bois, Reginald Marsh or John Sloan tended to focus on the flamboyant and sordid sides of the flapper set, Hopper focused on the more nuanced stories of society and often those found at the restaurants of the era. For example, while Sloan’s Reganeschi’s Saturday Night (1912, Art Institute of Chicago) has been suggested as inspiration for Hopper’s New York Restaurant (circa 1922, Muskegon Museum of Art) and Chop Suey, the subject matter for both artists was more likely commonly derived, with their approaches markedly different. Robert Hobbs explains, “The two artists are both adhering to the tradition begun by the French Impressionists of picturing ordinary people in modern cities… but unlike Sloan he was not concerned with direct political reform. Hopper was much more involved with a new and distinct sensibility characteristic of his own era…He was concerned with general human values, and he used art as a way to frame the forces at work in the modern world” (R. Hobbs, Edward Hopper, New York, 1987, p. 48).

While having its roots in the French Impressionist and Ashcan traditions of painting city life, Chop Suey was likely more specifically inspired by Chinese restaurants Hopper visited, both in New York and on his travels. A uniquely American place, in the early twentieth century, the chop suey joint personified the spirit of the modern nation’s melting pot. Derived from a Cantonese phrase, tsap sui, meaning ‘odds and ends,’ chop suey came to refer to not only a low cost stir-fry dish but, moreover, to a public destination where an interested observer could view the societal fusion of different cultural elements of the modern city. Originating as flashy destinations in Chinatown for the nightlife crowd, by the mid-1920s chop suey restaurants had evolved into popular luncheonettes where the burgeoning working-class could gather to grab a bite to eat. The layout of this restaurant has been associated by scholars including Patricia Junker with a spot in Portland, Maine, where Hopper spent the summer of 1927, as well as a restaurant on Columbus Circle on the Upper West Side of New York. Called The Far East Tea Garden, the New York establishment was a cheap, second-floor spot that the Hoppers frequented while dating and in the early years of their marriage, and was also known as a meeting place for Alfred Stieglitz, Georgia O’Keeffe and other Modernists in their circle. (A.F. Smith, ed., Savoring Gotham: A Food Lover’s Companion to New York City, New York, 2015, n.p.) These restaurants were typical for their type, as described by Junker: “Unpretentious places, they were typically located on the upper floors of old commercial brownstones. A large, flashy ‘chop suey’ sign, extending prominently from a building’s façade, identified the restaurant to passerbys on the street below. Many were open for lunch, but all catered, at least initially, to a late-night crowd, remaining open as late as 2:00 A.M… Chop suey restaurants appealed to a widely diverse clientele that included Irish Catholics, European Jews, and blacks from Harlem. Their dining rooms provided a snapshot of modern New York… By the end of 1925, Bertram Reinitz, a popular social commentator and columnist for the New York Times, saw chop suey as a major indication of cultural transformation…it had been ‘promoted to a prominent place in the mid-day menu of the metropolis’” (P. Junker, quoted in Edward Hopper: Women, exh. cat., Seattle Art Museum, 2008, pp. 34-35).

Hopper’s Chop Suey captures a snapshot look at this common lunch hour meeting spot, depicting just two tables of archetypal customers within the somewhat sparse interior of the restaurant. In the foreground, two women chat at a table during their break, while another couple is partially visible in the distance. Curiously, within the restaurant, the bright white tables are conspicuously empty, and only the Asian teapot on the near table suggests any Chinese influence. Judith A. Barter writes of these bare tables in Hopper’s café scenes, “The distillation of Hopper’s subjects, the purity of his vision, is unmistakably American. Using the space of the diner, the Automat, or the Chinese restaurant, Hopper painted the familiar in new ways, editing out unnecessary details…There is never anything to eat on Hopper’s tables. Famously uninterested in food, Hopper and his wife often made dinner from canned ingredients. What he found important were the spaces where eating and drinking took place” (J. A. Barter, “Food for Thought: American Art and Eating,” Art and Appetite: American Painting, Culture, and Cuisine, exh. cat., Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois, 2013, p. 34).

Rather than the food or restaurant itself, it is the view through the window that draws attention to the specific space that gives the painting its title. The partially visible signage and the bold ‘SUEY’ literally cast a light on where the viewer should focus within the scene. Chop suey joints were notably restaurants where the new female working force was welcome, and in the crisscrossing bands of light, the figure facing the viewer is the point of focus. The expression on her pale, sunlit face becomes a mystery to uncover from beneath her cloche hat. Rather than bask in the glow, she appears pensive, seeming to avoid eye contact with either the viewer or her companion. Posed for by Hopper’s wife Jo, as indeed were all three women within the painting, she seems to sit alone and at a distance from the woman across from her, even while attracting attention with her composed beauty. Reflecting on the unique dual effect of light in Hopper’s work, Lloyd Goodrich has noted, “it reveals and at the same time isolates them” (L. Goodrich, Edward Hopper, New York, 1971, p. 83) Didier Ottinger further explains, “This property of light is easily experienced in America. In the city streets of the East Coast it acts on individuals in a crowd like the beam of a theater spotlight, literally ‘isolating’ each of them. Hopper invests this special quality of American light with metaphysical meaning, using it to create paradoxical lighting that heightens the poignant solitude of his figures” (D. Ottinger, “The Transcendental Realism of Edward Hopper,” Hopper, exh. cat., Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, 2012, pp. 46-47).

Adding another layer of interpretation, Margaret Iverson has proposed that by modeling both women at the table after one person, Hopper infuses the scene, perhaps unconsciously, with a “Freudian doppelganger, the figure with her back to us being the other woman’s (and everyone’s) naturally once-repressed double, here returned as ‘an uncanny harbinger of death’” (W. Wells, Silent Theater: The Art of Edward Hopper, New York, 2007, pp. 41-42). With this reading, Chop Suey very closely echoes the subject and tone of Hopper’s painting Automat (1927, Des Moines Art Center, Des Moines, Iowa) of two years earlier. Depicting a similar young woman in green looking thoughtful beneath the rim of her tight-fitting hat, Automat more straightforwardly embodies the feelings of loneliness and isolation possible even when out in a public place. Just as in Chop Suey, Hopper also plays with the reflections of light through a large expanse of windows to define just how the viewer should be looking at his subject. Ottinger summarizes, “Automat…represents silence and solitude: a young woman is sitting at a table in one of the new self-service cafes where the food comes in vending machines. This work demystifies the hollow happiness promised by the leisure industry, exposing its alienating and dehumanizing side.” (D. Ottinger, op. cit., p. 27).

Beyond illuminating the feelings of uncertainty that modern city life in the 1920s could spur, viewing Hopper’s restaurant paintings from this era as a series reveals the changing role and view of women within this atmosphere. In his painting New York Restaurant (circa 1922, Muskegon Museum of Art, Muskegon, Michigan), Hopper captures women in a male-dominated restaurant as servers in frilly white aprons or escorted dates in fanciful fur coats. When he revisits similar settings at the end of the decade—those expressly titled as the modern settings of an automat and chop suey joint—Hopper instead sees the female visitors as independent individuals, facing new challenges of identity that come along with their new place in society outside of the home. These women are creatures of contradiction; bundled in thick coats, long sleeves and tight hats, yet with bare legs and bright red lips, they are at once just another face in the crowd as well as the focus of every eye. Even the viewer is given the role of voyeur, with elements like the top of a chair visible at the foreground edge of the composition suggesting our place within the scene. Junker reflects, “In New York’s restaurants, women, especially young ones, were on public display as never before. Hopper’s restaurant pictures all focus on these young working-class women, and thus they understand something essential about the character of the modern city in which he painted. They reveal, too, the social and sexual tensions that came with new public roles for men and women. Hopper’s New York café women of the 1920s are among his most psychologically and sexually charged character studies, and they tell us much, too, about the intensity of his own personal engagement with his subject” (P. Junker, op. cit., p. 17).

The intense personal feeling imbedded in works such as Chop Suey partially derives from Hopper’s artistic process during these early years of his career in New York. Whereas later he would prepare copious preliminary drawings to work out his compositions, Carter E. Foster writes, “there are no known drawings for several of his most famous paintings from this era, including Chop Suey, House by the Railroad (1925; Museum of Modern Art, New York), or Automat” (C. E. Foster, Hopper Drawing, exh. cat., Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 2013, p. 46) Rather, Hopper would ruminate on his idea, and then paint onto the canvas his own memory rather than what was actually there. Hopper himself once explained of his method, “The picture was planned very carefully in my mind before starting it, but except for a few small black-and-white sketches made from the fact, I had no other concrete data, but relied on refreshing my memory by looking often at the subject.” Naturally, with this compositional technique, what is included versus removed reflects the artist’s imagination and underlying motivation as much as reality. Referring to New York Restaurant, Hopper reflected on this aspect of his art: “In a specific and concrete sense the idea was to attempt to make visual the crowded glamour of a New York restaurant during the noon hour. I am hoping that ideas less easy to define have, perhaps, crept in also” (E. Hopper, quoted in Edward Hopper: Women, pp. 12-13, 19).

With the emphasis on personal expression rather than true realism, it is no wonder that Ottinger declares, “Of all the American ‘realists,’ Hopper is the one whose painting has the greatest degree of ‘abstraction’” (D. Ottinger, op. cit., p. 38). Indeed, in Chop Suey Hopper plays as much with color and light as he does with the psychological mood. In the background, swaths of cool blues are bisected with bands of strong white light, creating spotlights on the figures but also an almost abstract pattern along the walls. Meanwhile, the foreground of the restaurant employs a warm, golden hue to define the architecture of the space and draw further attention to the striking red, white and blue of the gleaming sign outside. In fact, perhaps it was this play of light and form that directed Abstract Expressionist Mark Rothko to look to Chop Suey as a direct inspiration in his early career. Rothko would have seen the painting either at its exhibition at Frank K.M. Rehn Gallery in January 1929 or in Pène du Bois’ Hopper monograph of 1931, and the image shortly thereafter inspired his own Composition I [recto], which closely replicates the composition in Rothko’s early, more realistic style. Yet, even Rothko’s classic color field works share a kinship with the play of light and structure in Hopper’s best canvases. Rothko scholar David Anfam explains, “Hopper’s strongest compositions, like Rooms by the Sea, not only attain a quasi-abstract and stark luminosity reminiscent of Rothko, but also aspire to the interlocked, planar rigor of a pictorial architecture. To Rothko’s eye this was the quality that set Hopper above [Andrew] Wyeth—the architectonics, literal and metaphoric” (D. Anfam, Mark Rothko, The Works on Canvas: Catalogue Raisonné, New Haven, 1998, p. 77).

Hopper’s Chop Suey similarly foreshadows the post-War movement of Pop Art, incorporating the bold lettered signage of the city streets as a focal point of attention and self-reference within the composition. Gail Levin writes of the prominent signs in Hopper’s work, “in Hopper’s ironic imagination, the classic architecture becomes a frame for the contrasts of old and new, commerce and entertainment, in urban life” (G. Levin, Edward Hopper: An Intimate Biography, New York, 1995, p. 285). Moreover, Hopper’s explorations into the commoditization and mechanization of dining in the 1920s, and the impact those changes have on society, parallel the themes of Pop Art explored by Andy Warhol and Claes Oldenberg a half century later. As Sarah Kelly Oehler explains, “In the 1960s, Pop artists dedicated numerous works to depictions of food, tapping into an ethos of mass consumption and convenience that was quintessentially American” (S. K. Oehler, “Convenience: Pop, Production, and the making of Art in the 1960s,” Art and Appetite: American Painting, Culture, and Cuisine, p. 205) In these ways, both visually and symbolically, it is no wonder that William Seitz has called Hopper’s paintings “a bridge from the Ashcan school to the decade of Pop Art.” (W. Seitz, quoted in Edward Hopper: An Intimate Biography, p. 578).

Indeed, Chop Suey stands as an important visual icon of an era when American art and culture were renewing themselves with modernist vigor. With women joining the workforce, more people living in the city, developing technology and commerce changing everyday interactions, and the United States enjoying unprecedented growth and prosperity, Hopper’s 1929 painting was certainly executed during a dynamic moment in the nation’s history. Yet, by addressing the evolving concept of the American Dream and visualizing it around a restaurant table, this work takes its place as a modern icon amidst the art historical narrative that traces the roots of American culture through mealtimes, from nineteenth-century still lifes through Norman Rockwell’s Freedom from Want and Wayne Thiebaud’s pastel pastries. With this grounding, Hopper presents a scene of modernity that the viewer can immediately relate to and ultimately accept as their own. As embodied by Chop Suey, “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” (G. Solana, J.P. Cluzel, Hopper, Paris, France, 2012, p. 9).

More from An American Place | The Barney A. Ebsworth Collection Evening Sale

View All
View All