Paper Proposal

September 12th, 2007

Hopper’s Women


I have been interested in Edward Hopper ever since I took my first art history class as a senior in high school and I have been waiting for an excuse to write about him.  As his most well-known painting that has been in every survey text I have observed, Nighthawks is, of course, the first image that drew me to Hopper.  I once read somewhere that the viewer’s interpretation of Nighthawks, whether you view the couple as married or having an affair and whether you see loneliness or hope as the overall theme, was representative of the viewer’s own life and personality.  As I was considering various paper topics, someone put the idea in my head of writing about Hopper’s depictions of women and immediately all of the solitary images of women painted by Hopper that I could remember flashed through my mind.  As I began my research, I learned about Hopper’s wife, who was also an artist until she ended up putting her career on the backburner to support her husband.  Their marriage was turbulent at times and I have no doubt that some of their problems arose from resentment Jo must have felt at sacrificing her career and the changing American society in the 1950’s and 1960’s in which gender roles were being challenged.  Edward Hopper’s depiction of women, particularly his solitary figures, reflects the loneliness and estrangement he and his wife, Josephine, experienced at times.

While most of my preliminary research has been focused on Edward Hopper, I plan to research Josephine Hopper’s life and career more to get a better understanding of her point-of-view and either confirm or reject my suspicions that mark her as the backbone of her husband’s work and success.  I also plan to expand my sources to include the following so I have a framework for ideas that I can relate back to my topic:

Gouma-Peterson, Thelma, and Patricia Mathews.  “The Feminist Critique of Art History.”  Art Bulletin 69 (1987):  326-57.

  • Norma Broude and Mary D. Garrard, “An Exchange on the Feminist Critique of Art History.”  Art Bulletin 71 (1989):  124-26.
  • Thelma Gouma-Peterson and Patricia Mathews, “Reply.”  Art Bulletin 71 (1989):  126-27.

         A study on Hopper’s depiction of women in relation to the role Jo played in their marriage and his artistic success is important because it draws to the viewer’s attention that although Hopper’s paintings tend to have themes of loneliness and isolation, this is by no means a “one man show” so to speak. Some of the images I plan to focus on are Girlie Show ( 1941), A Woman in the Sun (1961), Morning Sun (1952), Hotel Room (1931), and Eleven A.M. (1926).

            Edward Hopper’s marriage had a significant influence on his works, in particular his depictions of women.  Jo Hopper’s role as her husband’s supporter and model was imperative to his success, but at the price of her own artistic career.


One Response to “Paper Proposal”

  1. » Louis at the Hirshhorn, Hopper at the National Gallery, and arachnids in between Roblog on September 28, 2007 3:53 pm

    […] I also got to see the Edward Hopper exhibition, which was fascinating and comprehensive and one of the most exciting things I’ve ever seen. Still, woowee, Hopper’s women are certainly rigid, and voyeristically sexualized. (Heather Carey has a great paper topic.) […]

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