MY FRIENDSHIP WITH
EDWARD HOPPER

My friendship with Edward Hopper stemmed from my purchasing in 1948 from a drugstore rack for twenty-five cents The Pocket Book of Old Masters. It was an attractive paperback, illustrated with good plates, and undoubtedly available in innumerable ordinary places across the continent. In those days, when American art was still a subject of scorn to our academics, esthetes, and critics, I liked to contend that, if it were possible to get past the barricade set up by these Europeanized intellectuals, the American people at large would enjoy and appreciate the art of their own land. I suddenly visualized a chance for testing my assumption. Pocket Books had then the largest paperback distribution in the United States. Supposing they could be persuaded to float on their waters a history of American painting?

I mailed out the proposition as a forlorn hope, but almost immediately found myself lunching grandly, in an expensive restaurant, with the editors and executives of Pocket Books. They expressed enthusiasm. The result was The Pocket History of American Painting, published in 1950, with four adequate color plates and forty-eight good black-and-white illustrations. Cost: twenty-five cents. Copies were sold by the hundreds of thousands; the book was translated into more than twenty languages, and a copy came into the hands of Edward Hopper.

Since the taciturn semi-recluse was so pleased with what I had written that he sought out my acquaintance, it must have expressed to an unusual extent how he liked to think about himself and his work. The passage is short enough to be quoted in its entirety. It picks up from the last statement in the preceding paragraph: "We admire Sheeler's paintings but are not emotionally stirred."

Edward Hopper ( 1882-) strikes richer overtones. Trained not in the estheticism of Chase but the humanism of Henri, Hopper thinks technical

____________________
An earlier version of this essay appeared in Art Journal ( Summer 1981), 133-35.

-316-

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