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:
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:
Hidden under the armored brim of a hat, I started to notice that Hopper treated his subjects’ faces as masks:
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.
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:
(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.
(word to the wise, you can download the audio guide before you go and it’s cheaper than at the door.)