Sunday, April 27, 2008

Sun in an Empty Room (1963)

My favorite painting in the Edward Hopper exhibit at the Art Institute in Chicago is Sun in an Empty Room. Done toward the end of his career, Hopper makes the subject of the painting a room occupied by a beautiful quality of light not done justice in the reproduction here, (though not Slate's fault; I remember my high school art history teacher showing us five different slides of a Rubens painting, all with different tones of peach to pink to orange flesh). The painting is quiet, and there's a sense of permanence and calm.

I do love Nighthawks at the Diner, too, but that's a gimmee in this show. More interesting were the etchings, and the way that Hopper shows so many of his subjects from the outside in. Another favorite was an early etching, influenced by Millet, that depicts two cows standing in a field. What does Hopper show but the gnarly backsides of the cows, looking away from the viewer. And there's a great, almost comic-book like, early piece that takes an aerial view (apparently Hopper was one of the first to use the skyscraper as point-of-view in an art work) of a tiny man dwarfed by the shadows and buildings around him.

And I did love the way that he captures the contrast of late-afternoon sun - clear and yellow and bright - against the shadows that it creates on buildings and sidewalks and floors. There were a few intriguing nudes, with opalescent skin and bellies that had touches of green and purple, but I most liked the scenes of interiors of houses and restaurants and people eating alone or together, but just missing eye contact. There's a wonderful portrait of a man sitting in a chair, reading the paper. He's dressed in evening wear, and the woman in the painting sits to his left, idly playing a tune on the piano. She's also dressed for an event. And there's no communication between them; they're very much in their own worlds, though only inches apart. Truthfully, I like pictures of houses: my favorite Van Gogh is the painting of his bedroom, with its humble little bed and nightable.

After Hopper, we walked through the Winslow Homer exhibit, which are paired together. Nothing appealed to me. I liked his sketches much better than the finished paintings, and by then, I was hungry and ready to take a break. We had lunch at the Artists' Cafe in the Fine Arts building and then headed home.

Tomorrow, I'm off to the New York area for a yoga therapy training session. I'll have the lap top but no camera, so perhaps there will be posts, but no visual aids to include.

No comments: