edward hopper drawings
Hopper approaches Surrealism with Rooms by the Sea (1951), where an open door gives a view of the ocean, without an apparent ladder or steps and no indication of a beach. 
Though very interested in the American Civil War and Mathew Brady’s battlefield photographs, Hopper made only two historical paintings. Both depicted soldiers on their way to Gettysburg.  Also rare among his themes are paintings showing action. The best example of an action painting is Bridle Path (1939), but Hopper’s struggle with the proper anatomy of the horses may have discouraged him from similar attempts. 
Hopper lived with his wife Jo in a spare walk-up apartment and adjoining studio near Washington Square, rarely traveling except for summers spent in New England. Along the way, Hopper produced such icons of American art as Nighthawks (1942), the definitive American painting of a late-night diner; Rooms for Tourists (1945), the mysterious Victorian house that has influenced several generations of noir filmmakers; and Office at Night (1940), which continues to intrigue us with its sense of drama frozen in time.
Edward Hopper, Study for Morning Sun, 1952, Whitney Museum of American Art
Edward Hopper, Study for New York Movie, 1938 or 1939. Fabricated chalk on paper, 11 1/8 × 15 in. (28.3 × 38.1 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Josephine N. Hopper Bequest 70.277. © Heirs of Josephine N. Hopper/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY
This exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and Humanities.
Yet, even with all these insights into Hopper’s creative process, we’ll never fully understand all the mysteries his paintings hold, which brings us back to the novella that has just been written for Office at Night. “What was very interesting for me is that both writers approached their process in the way that Hopper approached his process, which is starting with the facts of the painting and then improvising from there. You’ll see that when both Laird and Kate write, some of the elements that are missing in the painting, but that are in the drawings, actually have a role in the story.”
All of the other paintings in the Hopper Drawing exhibit are given this same eye-opening analytic treatment, helping us understand why the artist’s “realistic” images have so much impact. At first glance, for example, Hotel Lobby (1943) looks pretty straightforward; but there is a subtle, yet palpable, sense of intensity among the three people in that lobby. Again, the many preparatory drawings show us that we’re not imagining it; every detail was submitted to the artist’s imagination to convey that reaction. Similarly, in the elevated view of sunlight-raked buildings in From Williamsburg Bridge (1928), the solitary figure in a window, which evokes a vague sense of loneliness, is a late addition to the composition. Or consider Rooms for Tourists, a Victorian house in Provincetown, where Hopper spent his summers. It’s just plain spooky. Hopper parked his car so often near that house, sketching every detail, that the people inside wondered what was going on; and then, in the final painting, he shrouded the house in darkness. As art critic Robert Hughes wrote in his book American Visions, “Hopper’s isolated Victorian houses, with their porches and pediments and staring windows, were recycled by a host of illustrators and filmmakers: the house the comically sinister Addams family lived in is a Hopper house, and so is the mansion alone on the Texas prairie in Giant, and the house in Hitchcock’s Psycho.”
Hopper was a good student in grade school and showed talent in drawing at age five. He readily absorbed his father’s intellectual tendencies and love of French and Russian cultures. He also demonstrated his mother’s artistic heritage. Hopper’s parents encouraged his art and kept him amply supplied with materials, instructional magazines, and illustrated books. By his teens, he was working in pen-and-ink, charcoal, watercolor, and oil—drawing from nature as well as making political cartoons. In 1895, he created his first signed oil painting, Rowboat in Rocky Cove. It shows his early interest in nautical subjects.
After returning from his final trip abroad in 1910, Hopper moved permanently to New York City and, in 1913, settled in a house that would be his home and studio for the rest of his life. That same year he sold his first painting, Sailing (1911), for $250 at the Armory show in New York. Though he never stopped painting, it would be 11 years before he sold another artwork. In 1915, he took up printmaking, producing some 70 etchings and dry points over the next decade. Like the paintings for which he would later become renowned, Hopper’s etchings embody a sense alienation and melancholy. One of his better known etchings, Night Shadows (1921) features the birds’-eye viewpoint, the dramatic use of light and shadow, and the air of mystery which would serve as inspiration for many film noir movies of the 1940s. Hopper continued to receive great acclaim for his etchings over the years and considered them an essential part of his artistic development.
Hopper’s early drawings do not look at all preliminary. They are accomplished enough, in the manner of nineteenth-century American realism, but they already challenge the ideal of polish. They picture an urban scene, of casually dressed men and women, a matchbox, and a bullet. They run quickly through faces and hands, often as not his own, to the point of caricature. They seem preliminary not to paintings but to magazines. When he takes up watercolors, they owe something to the fashion for Japanese art and a great deal more to Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.
Still, he was hardly precocious. He had his first success in his forties, with a show of watercolors in 1924. At the Whitney Studio Club, from 1920 to 1925, he even took a step backward toward academic practice, with a good six hundred nude drawings. He was pursuing magazine illustration as late as 1925. As late as the 1940s, a sketch of his wife, Jo, looks curiously inert. Fortunately, he had been pursuing all along an education on his own.
This answers that ongoing question of whether an artist even needs to know how to draw. Absent that ability—or even the interest in doing so—an artist is likely unable to reach a point of meaning. If he or she cannot draw in a realistic manner, then the only scene able to be rendered is one that is abstract or skewed to the point of obscurity. Piet Mondrian, for instance, was an expert draftsman, whose style later morphed into a kind of minimalist geometric abstraction, but that shift was his choice.
To prove the point, a particularly poignant detail in the show was the actual easel with which Hopper worked. He built the apparatus in 1924 and positioned every one of his major paintings on it until he died in 1967. For the show, the easel was set with the unframed Early Sunday Morning (1930), that famous block-long expanse of sun-washed brick storefronts, the sidewalk populated only by a barber pole and a fire hydrant. We learned that the work was painted at Hopper’s Greenwich Village studio at 3 Washington Square North and that the actual locale of the storefronts was at 88 Seventh Avenue, a row that was torn down in 1939 and replaced with an Art Deco apartment house.