Edward Hopper was born in Nyack, New York, a small town on the Hudson River. Hopper expressed an interest in art from an early age and was encouraged by his parents who purchased art books and supplies for him. Following high school, Hopper determined that he wanted to become an artist but he initially studied commercial art so that he would have some career security. He enrolled in the New York School of Illustrating in 1899, but soon transferred to the New York School of Art where he studied with the school’s founder, William Merritt Chase, as well as with Kenneth Hayes Miller and Robert Henri. Hopper remained at the school for seven years and cited Henri as his most influential teacher.
In 1906, Hopper made his first voyage to Europe, and stayed primarily in Paris. Although this was a critical point in the evolution of modern art, Hopper claimed to have not been affected by these new developments and remained committed to realism. Many of his early paintings were based on what he saw and experienced in France, Spain, Germany, Holland, and England. Hopper set up his own studio in Manhattan in 1910 and participated in the famed Armory Show of 1913 where he sold his first painting. In 1920, he was given his first solo exhibition at the Whitney Studio Club. Living in Greenwich Village, he rekindled a friendship with an old classmate from the New York School of Art named Josephine Nivison. The couple married in 1924.
Hopper also had an exhibition at the Frank K.M. Rehn Gallery in 1924 that met with great critical success. He grew into his mature style over the next few years that consisted of mostly sparse landscapes featuring nostalgic images of buildings or scenes of urban isolation. By 1925, Hopper was able to support himself solely with his paintings, bought a car, and traveled with his wife throughout the United States and Mexico. The New England coast proved to be one of their favorite destinations and they built a summer home in Cape Cod in 1933. A second show at the Rehn Gallery in 1927 cemented Hopper’s reputation as an important figure in the American art world. Over the next four decades, Hopper’s reputation grew and he became one of the most respected artists in the country. In 1929, he was included in the Museum of Modern Art’s second major exhibition, Paintings by Nineteen Living Americans.
Hopper and his wife traveled to Charleston, South Carolina in 1929 where he produced eleven paintings, mostly architectural and beach scenes. Their trip occurred during a period of artistic revitalization in the city known as the Charleston Renaissance. The couple stayed for three weeks and associated with the local artists and citizens. While there Hopper visited St. John’s Lutheran Church, possibly at the suggestion of Mrs. Wulbern, the owner of the boardinghouse where they stayed, and it became the subject of his only known painting of a church interior. Hopper was also interested in the city’s unique houses, with their unusual sideways positioning. He and his wife explored the Lowcountry and visited the surrounding, rural areas where he painted isolated cabins and palmetto trees along the coast.
Edward Hopper died on May 15, 1967 in his New York studio. Upon his death, his widow donated a large body of his work to the Whitney Museum of American Art. Today his work is included in major collections throughout the United States and abroad. He is now considered by many to be one of the most important American artists of the twentieth century.