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Hopper's Life

Home Hopper's Life Major Themes Selected Artwork


Edward Hopper was born on July 22, 1882 in Nyack, New York.  His parents were Garret Henry Hopper and Elizabeth Griffiths Smith.  His father was of English and Dutch descent and his mother was of English and Welch descent.  Hopper and his family were members of middle class America.  His father owned his own dry-goods store.  Hopper also had a sister Marion who was two years older than him.  As children, both he and his sister were exposed to art as children by their mother. 


From as early as his childhood, Hopper loved the sea.  It was reflected in many of his works.  When he was a child he spent a lot of time by the sea in ship yards in his hometown.  Hopper wanted to pursue a career as a naval architect because of this fascination with boats and the military.  When he was fifteen his father gave him the materials to build a cat boat.  He built it but it wasn’t that good to sail in and he felt that he shouldn’t pursue any career as a naval architect.  Instead he decided to pursue a career in art and his parents agreed.


When Hopper graduated High School, he wanted to pursue fine arts.  His parents liked the idea of him pursuing a career in art, but they felt it should be something related to commercial art like illustrating.  Hopper did pursue a career in illustrating, but wasn’t too happy in doing that.  When Hopper was seventeen he got involved in the Correspondence School of Illustrating in New York City.  After a year he transferred to the New York School of Art.  There, Hopper studied under artists who took on an impressionistic style and a style that was similar to impressionism.  This other style was known as the Ashcen school.  It was a radical group of American artists that had an impressionistic style but instead of focusing on the countryside, they focused on the city and its unpleasant side.  Much of Hoppers earlier works were in the Aschen School style.  He had a darker color pallet much used in this style.


In Hopper’s earlier life, he earned a living as an illustrator.  This career helped to finance his three trips to Europe.  In Europe he used his time to pursue doing the work he loved, which was in the fine arts.  In 1906 Hopper made his first trip to France.  A year later he traveled to England.  In his third and final trip to Europe he went back to France but it was only a brief trip there.  He left to explore the world of Spain.  Throughout all of these trips, he studied and observed the artworks of many new and already well-known artists.  Some of these artists included Cezanne, El Greco, Rembrandt, and Degas.  While he was there he also explored the architecture and the way of life in Europe.


Hopper submitted his artwork numerous times and sometimes won awards for his paintings.  He also continued to illustrate regularly for magazines such as The Farmer’s Wife and Country Gentleman.  He continued his career in illustrating until around 1924 when his success as a fine artist began to soar.  Within the time of the 1920’s and 1930’s, his art became more and more well-known.  By 1933 he was considered the leading American artist of the period.


In 1924 Hopper married Josephine Verstille Nivison, Jo for short.  Hopper met Jo at the New York School of Art where they were the students of the same teacher, Robert Henri.  They were friends for many years but it wasn’t until a few years before their marriage that they had become closer.  During Jo’s time with Hopper, she helped to promote his artwork, manage his affairs, and served as his only female model.  She too was an artist.


Hopper and his wife resided in Greenwich Village in New York.  Hopper saved up enough money to buy a second house which was in New England.  In particular, this house was in Truro, Massachusetts which is in Cape Cod.  He spent many of his summers there with his wife.  A lot of his artwork was influenced by the lifestyle and country scenes that he observed there in Cape Cod.


Whenever the Hopper’s got restless they would travel.  They were able to do this because of the rapid increase in modes of transportation.  They went to Mexico several times and they traveled all over the United States.  Travel was among Hopper’s favorite things to do and it was a major influence in his artwork. 


In Hopper’s later years he and Jo spent more time in Cape Cod and less time traveling.  He didn’t paint as many pictures as he had throughout his life but he still was painting.  He still created stories within his paintings and in many instances Jo would pose as the women in his paintings. 


Hopper became very ill at the end of his life and died in 1967.  A year later, Jo died in 1968.   Hopper is still a very popular artist today.  Many of his paintings are well-known and can be seen in numerous places.  Hopper is popular because he tried  convey what he saw in life through his paintings.  These are themes that can still be seen in America today.

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Self Portrait, 1925-1930
(Oil on Canvas)














Jo Hopper, 1945-1950
(Charcoal on paper)













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This site was updated on 04/30/2004