We went to the Hopper exhibit at the MFA in Boston yesterday. It was excellent–a collection of his etchings, watercolors, and oils.

While I love his glimpses of rooms through windows, I must say that my favorite works in this exhibit were his New England landscapes (I suppose it is inaccurate to call them “landscapes” as they are paintings of buildings upon the land).

Particularly, I was drawn to his watercolors which have a real clarity to them–and which have captured the spectacular and unique light of Boston’s north shore perfectly. We learned that Hopper did not like to do the watercolors (or grew frustrated with doing them? Can’t remember exactly the phrasing). He explained that his watercolors were “non fiction” (because he painted them with his subject before him) thus were limited because they showed the flaws of nature. He preferred his oil paintings because they were the “fiction” he created back in his studio.

Don’t get me wrong, his oils are lovely but for me the REAL of the realism lies in those watercolors. The way he captured light on the rooftops!

I had thought the more famous paintings of his (Nighthawks and Chop Suey, etc) would be those that grabbed me, but after viewing the landscapes, they left me a bit sad. Desolate. (With that said, the commentary by Wim Wenders–if you chose the audio tour–for Nighthawks was fabulous.)

Where there is hope in light on a rooftop, there is desperation in the faces of the people. They are trapped in rooms, behind glass (or through an open window). They are looking out or into something. They are observed. I wonder if Hopper wasn’t something of a misanthrope (and believe me that I’m not judging him if he was!) or if my own frustration with the people around me yesterday made me understand his vision this way.

If you’re near Boston for the next three months or so, I would encourage you to give this exhibit some of your time. You won’t regret it.

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