The Edward Hopper expo at the Grand Palais opened about two weeks ago and it is still jam-packed, even on a Monday morning. It is a little less documented than the usual exhibits here (no individual explanations for various paintings) but is appreciably exhaustive covering his influences and featuring some of his most famous and influential work – and, of course, the masterpiece Nighthawks featured on the expo posters (sadly the huge version is sold-out until next week so I had to settle for a wee-little one for my office. I think that one should get here right at opening or on, say, Wednesday or Thursday. I’ll bet that the weekends are a total zoo for this exposition.
I found that in addition to the influences quoted in the exposition (his art school teacher and peers, Monet, Pisarro, etc), I found myself thinking of Vermeer and Turner. The ambiguity and openended stories that he tells as well as the way he lights rooms with solitary figures, was quite reminiscent of Vermeer. This particular one to the right “Girl at a Sewing Machine” reminded me of “The Letter” or “The Loom” which had similar moods. The lighting, particularly of some of Hopper’s lighthouses, reminded me of the stark contrasts and sometimes blinding sunsets that Turner was known for.
As for his influences on culture, I thought of the storytelling technique of Murakami where the figures are drawn as if from a certain distance (rarely do we really see facial ticks or into their eyes) and the stories are all ambiguous – one can draw any number of conclusions from them and often there is no conclusion. In another vein, the characters in Mad Men all have the same solitary aspect of those in Hopper. Some of the denuded women reminded me of those in Mad Men like Gina – trapped in their role but not really able to envision an alternative reality.
If you are here in the fall, it is probably the top-billed expo this season and as such is more than worth your time despite the teaming crowds. Just reserve in advance on http://www.fnac.com before showing up!