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Edward Hopper, Rockland, Beam Trawler Widgeon, 1926

Off-Campus: Hopper at Bowdoin College

Today’s post comes from Ruben Ramos, Class of 2012 and Art Center Student Docent.

Edward Hopper once said, “Great art is the outward expression of an inner life in the artist, and this inner life will result in his personal vision of the world.” Bowdoin College Museum of Art offered a rare view into Hopper’s vision of the world in their show, “Edward Hopper’s Maine.” The show, which ran from July 15th until October 16th chronicled Hopper’s vacations in Maine throughout nine summers between 1914 and 1929.

Those who visited The Bowdoin Museum of Art would have seen an impressive collection of watercolors included in the show, one of which was on loan from the FLLAC collection. Although Hopper is less known for watercolor, these pieces truly reflect the intimacy with which he explored his surroundings. By 1924 Hopper began to enjoy commercial success.  In the summer of 1926, Hopper went to Rockland Maine where he made Rockland, Beam Trawler Widgeon the watercolor loaned to the exhibit by the FLLAC.

This watercolor posits the viewer behind a rustic sailboat resting beside the water. The boat’s frame and mast dynamically cut across the picture plane, their lines immediately strike the viewer. Moving through the painting, one then gazes out over the boat toward the land in the background. The low horizon line leaves a vast expanse of a cool overcast sky above this thin sliver of land. The juxtaposition of the boat and the landscape make this watercolor at once, masculine and serene, dynamic yet deserted. Without showing any figures, Hopper displays the way humans interact with their environment.

In this piece, as in many others from this period, vessels and structures are of paramount importance to Hopper, while his study of nature’s beauty recedes into the periphery. The stretch of land that lies beyond the boat is nondescript and minimal displaying a departure from his earlier work, which highlighted nature, and his movement toward themes of tension in space and sensation, which characterize many of his later paintings.

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