Matted version, Edward Hopper, Two Lights Village, 1927, watercolor, owner: Fitchburg Art Museum, Massachusetts, USA. Photographer: Charles Sternaimolo, 2011,

A Curator’s Perspective: Edward Hopper’s Maine

By Diana Tuite, exhibition co-curator

July 15–October 16
Bowdoin College Museum of Art
9400 College Station, Brunswick 

Organized in association with the Whitney Museum of Art


During the nine summers Edward Hopper spent in Maine, he condensed his impressions of the place in luminous paintings and watercolors. Between 1914 and 1929, the artist sought inspiration and refuge in Ogunquit, Rockland, Portland, Cape Elizabeth, and on Monhegan Island. Edward Hopper’s Maine, an exhibition that showcases nearly ninety of his rarely seen early works, demonstrates how much Hopper’s sensory experience of nature governs even the most stylized of his compositions.

  • Hopper’s technique with watercolor is incredibly varied throughout the composition. Particularly on the facing sides of the buildings at right, one can see the evidence of a very fluid and aqueous pigment.
  • As is always the case with Hopper’s work, both light and shadow possess tremendous density, evidenced here in the sun-bleached eaves of several of the structures and the thick shadows the buildings cast. And yet the purple-blue shadow cast by the chimney near the center of the composition reads more like a dash of paint than the record of a sound observation.
  • Rather than show us the front of these modest homes in Cape Elizabeth, Hopper has painted them from behind and relatively straight on, so that all of the buildings at the rear of the houses fall into line. Hopper was fascinated with the rhythms of overlapping planes and structures obscuring one another and, in particular, the way that this can destabilize relative spatial relationships.
  • In several places where the pigment is significantly more dry (along the left edge of the pole; in passages in the grass), the white of the page peeks through. Hopper’s brushwork in the grass is crude and suggestive more than it is descriptive.
  • An expert colorist, Hopper even pulls the acid green of the grass into the side of the shed just beyond the pole—a thin rim of the color is visible along its top and right edges.
  • Foreground elements like this pole were a favorite device of the artist’s. Aggressively frontal and cutting across the height of the image, the pole (more flat than round) prompts one to relate to the buildings just behind it vertically, registering them as one unit and scanning them from top to bottom rather than from foreground to background as pictorial logic should dictate.

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