In today’s Seminar class, we first discussed the argument Men vs. Women, in relation to how they are viewed in society and the different standards men and women are held to. Men seem to be given much more leniency when observing their appearance, especially if the person in question is seen in a certain light and has a title or persona attached to him or her. Take Robert DeNiro as an example. We viewed a photo of him at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival and I noticed aspects of his appearance that I had never really taken note of before. His face showed signs of aging, his hair was long and wavy, and while he was dressed presentably, he didn’t appear to be overly dressed for the event. In our society, because he is a celebrity, and this is his style, it is acceptable for him to be seen in public in this manner. A woman who appeared in public in a similar fashion would not be respected in the same way and would most likely be frowned upon. I had never thought about appearance in such detail before, but after examining Robert DeNiro and The Mona Lisa (which are obviously two totally separate ends of the spectrum), I realized that it is much more socially acceptable for a man to be seen in a style such as Robert DeNiro’s, whereas a woman, whether in the age of Mona Lisa or today, is always expected to be in her best attire and looking more than simply presentable.
This subject of style was then related to artists, most specifically to the artist Edward Hopper. We looked at 12 of Edward Hopper’s paintings that are on display at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Many of Hopper’s paintings are realistic and universal, relatable at many different levels of society. The first painting we looked at, American Landscape, depicted a house in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by farm animals and grass. Such a scene is not unlikely to find in America, even today. It was probably more common in the 1900’s, but in certain areas of the country today, you could still find abandoned-looking houses, surrounded by forest, wheat, and animals, and it is a common way of life for some people. In his 1921 painting, New York Interior, we saw a young girl, most likely a ballerina, sitting in her bedroom, possibly sewing a piece of clothing. The bedroom consisted of a bed, painting, door, and a fireplace. Most of us noticed the fireplace right away, and commented on the fact that it is not uncommon to find a fireplace in people’s houses, even today. The fireplace appeared to be classic, and very in touch with the scene. There was nothing very out of the ordinary about the painting, and it depicted easy identifiable objects and actions. One of the final paintings that we discussed in detail was Hopper’s painting, Self Portrait,1925-1930. This painting depicted a man, dressed casually yet presentably, with a look on his face that seemed to express puzzlement or curiosity. He was alone, looking at something that was not shown in the painting, off to the side. His mannerisms and appearance was similar to that of Robert DeNiro, which we had discussed earlier in the class. His clothing was slightly wrinkled, and he seemed to give off the persona that he was “just another guy, like everybody else.” The analysis of this painting brought us back to the original question of, “What is Edward Hopper’s style?”
I think Hopper’s style has very much to do with realism and everyday life. Even in Hopper’s other paintings that we observed, Night Shadows, East Side Interior, Early Sunday Morning, and Seven AM, I think there are aspects in each of those paintings that people can relate to. For example, in Night Shadows, anybody walking down a deserted street late at night will most likely be walking briskly and quietly, just hoping to make it from Point A to Point B safely and without any disruptions. Hopper’s style seems to be about creating depictions that are universal, that can be easily seen and related to during any time period and in any location. I really enjoyed looking at and analyzing Hopper’s paintings and choosing the realistic and common aspects that could be found in each of them, things I could relate to and understand. I think looking at his art and analyzing it helps to give me a deeper appreciation for artists and the time they put in to creating their own unique works of art.