Hawthorne Fine Art has had the privilege of acquiring a drawing by the American Realist painter Edward Hopper (1882–1967). The Family House at Nyack from 1906 depicts the artist’s childhood home along the Hudson River. The view looks eastward toward Broadway and the Hudson River, seen delineated in the background.
Hopper’s paintings often feature carefully rendered architecture and landscapes, which he worked out in extensive preparatory sketches. Describing this meticulous process, Hopper wrote, “It takes a long time for an idea to strike. Then I have to think about it for a long time. I don’t start painting until I have it all worked out in my mind. I’m all right when I get to the easel.” This particular drawing depicts Hopper’s birthplace and family home, built by his grandfather in 1858. Hopper lived in this home until 1910, commuting to New York City for art classes. Completed in 1906, this image dates from the early years of Hopper’s training and demonstrates his experiments with line, composition, and depth; a fascination with the effects of light and shade; and an early interest in landscapes and houses as prominent subjects.
The Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City is currently featuring an exhibition of Edward Hopper’s preparatory drawings, highlighting the artist’s creative process and celebrating his draftsmanship. As Roberta Smith of the New York Times remarked, “We see Hopper in motion as never before, through the fluidity, roughness and quickness of his drawings, and also as he moves, through drawing after drawing, toward the final form his images would take on canvas.”
Works from Hopper’s early career—like The Family House at Nyack, completed when the artist was just twenty-four years old—explore his time in Europe. These quick sketches of his experiences abroad and the people and places he observed exist in great harmony with Hopper’s view of his house in Nyack. Very different from the artist’s depiction of home is the exhibition gallery devoted to the theme of travel and “the road.” The experience of travel became significant to Hopper’s career after he and his wife, Josephine Nivison Hopper, purchased a car in 1927 and began to tour the country.
Many of the Whitney’s drawings were completed in preparation for oil paintings, and present many visions and perspectives of single figures or compositions. The Family House at Nyack likewise demonstrates Hopper’s experiments with composition. Throughout the exhibition, the visitor encounters fascinating research regarding the precise location of the scenes depicted, most notably the conflated view of Greenwich Avenue and the Flatiron Building in Madison Square that makes up the composition for Nighthawks (1942). This documentation of place is arguably significant for our understanding of the artist’s creative process as well as changes to the location. During a recent visit to the Hopper homestead, Jennifer Krieger photographed the view depicted in The Family House at Nyack and discovered that the back porch of the house had been removed during renovations. The play of light and shade against the texture of the building’s siding and shutters is still apparent to the contemporary visitor, and Hopper’s drawing is now a treasured document reflecting the state of the house during the artist’s lifetime.
Edward Hopper is best known for his Realist paintings, watercolors, and etchings of everyday American life and the urban and rural landscapes. He was encouraged from an early age to pursue art and eventually attended the New York Institute of Art and Design, studying for a time with the well-known American Impressionist William Merritt Chase, and the urban Realist Robert Henri. Henri especially encouraged his students to paint subjects that interested them in ways that reflected how they felt about that subject.
From 1905 through the mid-1920s, Hopper created cover designs for magazines to support himself financially, although he disliked the job. During this period, he traveled to Europe three times to study the current art trends, yet he remained relatively unaffected by the contemporary art scene abroad sticking primarily to Realism. In 1913, Hopper, already thirty-one years old, sold his first painting at the Armory Show in New York. He struggled to define his personal style until the early 1920s when he began focusing more intently on architecture, both rural and urban.
 Quoted in Sheena Wagstaff, Ed., Edward Hopper (Tate Publishing: London, 2004), 98.