Edward Hopper's first professional forays into watercolor were in the summer of 1923, when he first produced a series of works in the Massachusetts harbor town of Gloucester. These works later garnered critical praise at a show where one work, The Mansard Roof, was purchased by the Brooklyn Museum. This small but significant success led to larger successes, and by the mid-twenties Hopper's watercolors had proven an established commercial venture for him.
Known famously for his urban oil paintings, especially of New York, Hopper's desire to vary his subject matter led him out of New York City many times, traveling with his wife Jo to Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont, South Carolina, Wyoming, Oregon, and California, among other places. He loved to visit locations that allowed him to find, capture, and record America's scenery with watercolor. He was drawn to not only dramatic scenes of, for instance, jagged peaks in Wyoming, but also to utterly ordinary ones -- like the present work, of a New England rock quarry.
Lime Rock Quarry II is composed carefully. The two faces in the foreground that rise up on either side of the work serve to frame the central rock grouping, and are echoed in the background by two seemingly more shallow outcroppings. This sort of repetition from front to back helps the viewer understand the picture's depth. Having established this depth and given them a space in which to reside, Hopper is able to introduce the two main spires of rock in the central middleground, completing his measured composition.
"In the 1920s Hopper made several trips to Maine, including one in 1926 that found him in the midcoast city of Rockland, just south of Camden." (C. Little, Edward Hopper's New England, New York, 1993, p. XII) Executed on that trip, Lime Rock Quarry II showcases Hopper's characteristic use of light and shadow to create an overall mood. Indeed, though Hopper focuses here on the rocks themselves as the compositional objects, the raking light that casts bright light and precise shadows demonstrates that the watercolor is much more than a casual version of this particular landscape. In his signature watercolors, the artist's use of harsh, shadow-casting light manages to imply the feelings of loneliness and solitude that pervade so much of his work.