Mark Strand on Edward Hopper

Edward Hopper, Approaching a City, 1946 (Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.)
Edward Hopper, Approaching a City, 1946 (Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.)

A recently discovered essay on Edward Hopper by the late poet and artist Mark Strand.

Strand writes: "The coincidence of vision—his idea, vague at first, of what the painting might be—and the brute fact of the subject, its plain obdurate existence, just 'out there' with an absolutely insular existence. Until, that is, Edward Hopper sees something about it as a possible subject for a painting and this image with its possibilities lodges itself in Hopper’s imagination and the formation of the painting’s content begins—content being, of course, what the artist brings to his subject, that quality that makes it unmistakably his, so when we look at the painting of a building or an office or a gas station, we say it’s a Hopper. We don’t say it’s a gas station. By the time the gas station appears on canvas in its final form it has ceased being just a gas station. It has become Hopperized. It possesses something it never had before Hopper saw it as a possible subject for his painting. And for the artist, the painting exists, in part, as a mode of encountering himself. Although the encountered self may not correspond to the vision of possibility that a particular subject seemed to offer up. When Hopper said, in an interview with Brian O’Doherty, 'I’m after ME,' this is undoubtedly what he meant."