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Classroom use of the art print.


Edward Hopper (American; 1882-1967). People in the Sun, 1960. Oil on canvas; 40.375" x 60.375". Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.


Edward Hopper was born in 1882 in a small town just north of New York City. He began drawing at an early age and knew that he wanted to make a career as an artist. After he graduated from high school, he enrolled in commercial art school and took courses in commercial illustration. This course of studies was short-lived, and Hopper began coursework in drawing and painting. One of his teachers, Robert Henri, was a noted painter who founded a group known as The Ashcan School. The work of Henri and his followers was characterized by a gritty realism and subjects that depicted the modern realities of urban life. Henri's teachings would become a major influence on Hopper's own artistic output.

Hopper is considered the preeminent Realist painter in American art. He once said, "My aim in painting has always been the most exact transcription possible of my most intimate impression of nature." His choice of subject matter remained fairly consistent over the course of his career, and included Victorian houses, barns, trains, interiors of hotel rooms, offices and theaters, rural expanses and railroad tracks, city streets, and the facades of buildings. The people in Hopper's work, whether alone or in a group, tend to appear isolated. His most famous canvas, Nighthawks (1942), depicts a small group of people at the counter of a corner diner. The scene is viewed from the street and has a cinematic quality, as if it were a movie still. Hopper is also known for his dramatic depictions of light, often seen by juxtaposing light and shadow. Of his working method, he once said, "It's to paint directly on the canvas without any funny business, as it were, and I use almost pure turpentine to start with, adding oil as I go along until the medium becomes pure oil. I use as little oil as I can possibly help, and that's my method."

Hopper was the focus of many museum exhibitions during his lifetime, and unlike many artists, he enjoyed popular, critical and commercial success for most of his career. With the advent of Abstract Expressionism to the American art scene, his work became less relevant. After his death in 1967, his wife gifted his existing collection of work to the Whitney Museum of American Art. Since then, Hopper's output is considered one of the most important, and relevant. bodies of work in American art.


* Primary. Show students this month's Clip & Save Art Print, People in the Sun, by Edward Hopper. Ask students to describe what they see (people in deck chairs enjoying the sun, a large field, a building, bright light, shadows on the patio). Explain to them that the artist was very interested in light and spent his career as a painter showing all different types of light in his painting.

Ask students to come up with examples of different types of light (sunlight, morning light, the light at dusk, light from a streetlamp, light from a light bulb, etc.). As a group, write a description of the light in the image.

Next, pass out paper, pencils, crayons and colored pencils and have each student draw a picture of a group of people on a bright, sunny day. Help students brainstorm ideas for their pictures, such as people on a picnic, kids playing in a park, a family working in a garden, or vacationers at the beach. Give each student time to present and describe his/her work.

* Elementary. Most of Edward Hopper's paintings that depict outdoor scenes depict light dramatically through the contrast of light and shadow. Show students this month's Art Print and point out those areas where Hopper painted shadows.

Plan to take students outside on a bright day when the sun is high in the sky. With their sketchbooks in hand, have students walk around the school grounds to observe examples of shadow. Instruct students to spend time sketching a few of these examples in their sketchbooks. To expand this activity, have students choose one of the sketches on which to base a fully realized painting or drawing.

* Middle School. People in the Sun was painted toward the later part of Hopper's career, though before creating this work he had painted many pictures of people in bright light, both indoors and outdoors. Give students time to research the work of Edward Hopper, focusing on how the artist depicted light. Instruct each student to choose one image to analyze and present to the class. Following the research and presentations, have students create a drawing or painting influenced by the work of Edward Hopper.

* High School. In People in the Sun, the artist reveals his keen interest in the depiction of light. He once said, "Maybe I am not very human--what I wanted to do was to paint sunlight on the side of a house." And although there are people in this painting, one could argue that it is the quality of light that is the true subject.

There are many more examples of light-as-subject in the work of Edward Hopper. Give students time to do an image search on the Internet to find additional examples of this idea in the work of Edward Hopper, such as Rooms by the Sea, 1951. (To view this image visit artchive/H/hopper/room_sea.jpg.html.) After students have familiarized themselves with a wide selection of Hopper's work, challenge them to create a work of art, in color, in which the depiction of light is the most dominant aspect.

The following online image bases contain excellent examples of paintings by Edward Hopper:




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Title Annotation:Edward Hopper's painting called People in the Sun
Publication:Arts & Activities
Article Type:Brief biography
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2008
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