During the nine fruitful summers he spent in Maine between 1914 and 1929, Edward Hopper produced some of the most beautiful and evocative paintings and watercolors of his career. Yet his Maine period has to date been insufficiently studied and only partially understood. By bringing together for the first time most of the artist's Maine paintings, watercolors, drawings, and prints, Edward Hopper's Maine seeks to demonstrate that this body of work can and should be seen as distinct within his oeuvre and therefore worthy of separate consideration.
Hopper's Maine work reveals a side of the artist seldom seen, largely because he himself would ultimately suppress it. In Maine, he wielded paint with a spontaneity and technical bravura, combined with an easy command of color, that surprise those only familiar with the reductive palette and thin, flat brushstrokes of the later paintings. In particular, the thirty-two Monhegan oil sketches made between 1916 and 1919, his most sustained meditation on a single theme, demonstrate this formidable versatility with paint. In these ostensibly conventional landscapes, Hopper's idiosyncratic approach — focused, claustrophobic, and isolating — distinguished him from the thicket of landscape artists crowding New England at the time. And while there are obvious parallels with his later work, it would be wrong to see these paintings as no more than a preamble; they stand on their own as masterpieces of light, color, and immediacy.
We are pleased to have assembled for this exhibition all of the artist's Ogunquit paintings, all but two of his Monhegan oil sketches, a significant number of his Maine watercolors, most of his large-scale Maine drawings, and all of his Maine-themed etchings. Two of Hopper's four iconic lighthouse or lighthouse-related paintings complement these works, as does the mysterious and little-known painting Maine in Fog, whose reassessment is long overdue.
The catalogue's authors have looked at Hopper's Maine and Maine's Hopper from a broad range of perspectives. Carol Troyen has written a definitive overview of the subject; Steve Martin and Carter Foster have trained their sights on one important painting each; Diana Tuite has addressed Hopper's critical reception; Vincent Katz has considered the work from the viewpoint of a poet and translator long acquainted with Maine; and I have attempted to place the Monhegan oils in the larger context of Hopper's Maine production.
Edward Hopper's Maine could not have happened without the extraordinary generosity of the Whitney Museum of American Art, from whom more than half the works were borrowed and in association with whom the exhibition was organized. I am exceedingly grateful to Whitney director Adam D. Weinberg for his unwavering support throughout this enterprise and to his exemplary staff, whose knowledge and expertise have been invaluable. For his good grace, I also owe a debt of gratitude to Portland Museum of Art director Mark H. C. Bessire. It has been a pleasure to work with Diana Tuite, Andrew W. Mellon Curatorial Fellow at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art, who was, along with me, the exhibition's co-curator. She deftly managed every aspect of a complex project that was executed in a remarkably short time.
I owe particular thanks to the many lenders who agreed to share their Hopper watercolors. Watercolors are extremely sensitive to light; once shown, they cannot be shown again for long periods. The decision to lend was therefore a vote of confidence in the aesthetic and scholarly merits of this exhibition, for which we offer our sincere appreciation.
Edward Hopper's Maine would have remained nothing more than an idea without critical funding from the following: the Friends of Bowdoin College, the Libra Foundation, the Devonwood Foundation, Peter J. Grua ’76 and Mary G. O’Connell ‘76, and Frank M. Gren P’13,the Cowles Charitable Trust, Bowdoin College Class of 2010, Sotheby's, the Roy A. Hunt Foundation, and the Elizabeth B. G. Hamlin Fund. We are indebted to them all. For the catalogue, we are grateful to the Wyeth Foundation for American Art.
It is a privilege to offer this exhibition, a celebration of both Hopper and Maine, to the greater public. That it should take place in Maine is especially appropriate and gratifying.
Director, Bowdoin College Museum of Art