whoever you want to be…

Edward Hopper and Women

I recently had the opportunity of going to see the Edward Hopper exhibition at the Grand Palais.

(…mostly because I decided: DAMN! I’m always missing wonderful exhibits here in Paris! PSA to people who live here: you need to start a new habit of buying your ticket online when the show opens, thereby forcing yourself to actually go to the show rather than deciding at the last minute and then spending 2 hours in a queue in the rain… been there, done that.)

If you are in Paris and/or are planning to come to Paris before January, you really must make time for this show.  Night Hawks in the flesh is quite impressive:

Night Hawks

What struck me most though, was “Hopper’s” women.

Their fragility and loneliness:

Automat (Note: not actually at Grand Palais – wish it had been though)

Their vulnerability with the possibility of being seen by strangers as with this woman sitting at a window (is she brazen?  Does she want to be seen?  Her line of sight down makes me think that she isn’t that many stories above street level.):

Woman at Window

Or their vulnerability and inaccessibility to prying eyes:

Hotel Room

Hidden under the armored brim of a hat, I started to notice that Hopper treated his subjects’ faces as masks:

Chop Suey

One of the things that I found so extraordinary about Hopper’s paintings that one cannot appreciate in print is the eyes of his subjects.

They’re empty.

Disturbingly so.  It’s as though Hopper decided that we’re all puppets in a play.  Our bodies move around but in essence, we’re all wearing masks.  Nobody can really know what’s going on in any one of our heads and so the “windows to the soul” remain dark.  Expressionless and without feeling.

And I suppose that that’s when this exhibit started to creep me out a bit.

Night Hawks (detail)

And sometimes a lot:

Girlie Show

(Is that the same mobster gal from Night Hawks?  Or is that a transvestite with the weirdest and most luridly tipped breasts that the art world has ever seen? (because I swear that it looks like a man (face) with breasts IRL.)

Hopper’s world (which incidentally may or may not have juxtaposed Jack the Ripper’s: he met Walter Sickert in Paris during one of his trips here in the early 1900s) is one that appears to be, for the most part, reflective and quiet.

However, the saying that you should beware of standing water is true.  You never know what lurks beneath.

And what lurks under Edward Hopper’s paintings is an uncertainty and anxiety that is best described viscerally when seeing his paintings in real life.


Edward Hopper at the Grand Palais in Paris until January 28th, 2013.

(word to the wise, you can download the audio guide before you go and it’s cheaper than at the door.)

About jchevais

Canadian expat turned Parisian Burb Babe. It's so lovely.

3 comments on “Edward Hopper and Women

  1. Alex
    November 5, 2012

    Nighthawks is SO much more impressive in person, isn’t it? I’d got a little bored with prints of it, and then saw it a few years back in the Tate, and in its own room, with properly atmospheric lighting, it was suddenly a good deal more powerful.

    The model with the red hair was his wife, Jo, who was his only model after they married and was an artist in her own right, too – and yes, that’s her in the second painting too. 🙂

  2. Hopper à Paris
    November 12, 2012

    I agree that this exhibition is a MUST SEE if you come in Paris !! Thanx for this post, it helps to spread the word

  3. Susie Day
    November 12, 2012

    Sudden urge to give myself a trip to Paris as a Christmas present… I love these but I’ve never seen a Hopper ‘in the flesh’ and I know it’s always so different to see the real thing. Thanks for the tip!

Comments are closed.


This entry was posted on November 4, 2012 by in Bea Creative, Bea Entertained, Bea Feminist and tagged , , .
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