1. Down by the river
Hopper was raised in Upper Nyack, north of New York City. A historic area of summer homes and yacht-building on the Hudson River. His young life was ruled by a strict Baptist upbringing, dominated by the presence of his grandmother, mother, sister, and house maid.
Lighthouse Hill (1927) by Edward HopperDallas Museum of Art
2. He trained as a commercial illustrator
He had thought of becoming a naval architect, but his parents encouraged his art practice. In 1899 he took a correspondence course. He soon transferred to the New York School of Art and Design under William Merritt Chase. Starting in 1905 he painted covers for magazines.
Evening Wind (1921) by Edward HopperNational Gallery of Art, Washington DC
3. Scratching a living
Dissatisfied with his menial illustration work, and having failed to sell his oil paintings, he turned to etching. He also started to develop themes seen in his later work, such as couples sitting silently and figures gazing in and out of windows.
Edward Hopper Self-Portrait (1903) by Edward HopperSmithsonian's National Portrait Gallery
4. True art takes time
It was 1923, when he was 41, before Hopper saw any great recognition of his work. That year, six of Hopper's Gloucester watercolours were admitted to an exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum. Critics enjoyed the work, and the museum purchased one for $100.
Haskell's House (1924) by Edward HopperNational Gallery of Art, Washington DC
5. He was fascinated by architecture
According to Boston Museum curator, Carol Troyen, "Hopper really liked the way these houses, with their turrets and towers and porches and Mansard roofs and ornament cast wonderful shadows. He always said that his favorite thing was painting sunlight on the side of a house."
Cape Cod Evening (1939) by Edward HopperNational Gallery of Art, Washington DC
Summertime (1943/1943) by Edward HopperDelaware Art Museum
7. Rugged Individualism
In developing his self-image and individualistic philosophy of life, Hopper was influenced by the writings of American transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson. Hopper later said, "I admire him greatly … I read him over and over again."
Nighthawks (1942) by Edward Hopper (American, 1882-1967)The Art Institute of Chicago
8. He made few statements on his work
While Hopper disdained personal interpretation of his art, he refrained from making claims of his own. One rare comment said, "The inner life of a human being is a vast and varied realm and does not concern itself alone with stimulating arrangements of color, form and design."
Hitchcock Directing (1942) by Gjon MiliLIFE Photo Collection
9. But he left a visual legacy
Hopper's sparse, contemplative paintings and rendering of the modern American landscape have inspired many, notably Alfred Hitchcock in films such as The Birds and Vertigo. Hopper's House by the Railroad is said to be the direct inspiration for the Bates house in Psycho.
Ajax (1936-37) by John Steuart CurrySmithsonian American Art Museum