Edward Hopper's iconic New York Movie is on loan to the Art Institute from the Museum of Modern Art for America after the Fall: Painting in the 1930s. This exhibition brings together 50 works by some of the foremost artists of the era—including Hopper, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Grant Wood—to examine the landscape of the United States during the Great Depression and the many avenues artists explored as they sought to forge a new national art and identity.
Like many of Hopper's paintings, including the Art Institute's own Nighthawks, it explores the melancholy and isolation that so many people experience while living in a city. But there's much more to learn about this painting. Here are seven fun facts about New York Movie:
1. Hopper began the work in December of 1938 after a protracted dry spell in his work.
2. He visited several movie theaters—including the Strand, Globe, and Republican—before settling into a more extensive period of sketching at the Palace Theater on West Forty-Sixth Street (now the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre).
3. The woman on the right was modeled after Hopper’s wife, fellow artist Jo Hopper, who also served as the model in the aforementioned Nighthawks.
4. The ensemble that Jo is wearing was based on the wide-legged jumpsuits actually worn by the Palace's stylish female staff.
5. Poet Joseph Stanton wrote a poetic ode to the painting, appropriately titled “Edward Hopper’s ‘New York Movie,” which ends with the final stanza:
This picture tells us much about various textures of lighted air, but at the center Hopper has placed a slab of darkness and an empty chair.
6. One of the more unexpected details is the vignette featured on the screen, which Hopper described as "snowy mountain tops."
7. The scene is thought to be taken from the 1937 blockbuster movie Lost Horizon, directed by Frank Capra. In the opening titles, the film poses the question, “In these days of wars and rumors of wars—haven’t you ever dreamed of a place where there was peace and security, where living was not a struggle but a lasting delight?” This quote from the classic Capra film seems more than an appropriate analogue to the isolation evoked in the painting itself.
Edward Hopper. New York Movie, 1939. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Given anonymously, 1941.
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