9/12/12 Seminar Edward Hoppers Style

Wednesday’s Honors Seminar further broadened my approach to looking at paintings. Since beginning this class and reading Ways of Seeing I have noticed a change in the way I view paintings. Rather than simply trying to imagine what the artist is attempting to portray when creating his/her work I take more initiative to see the different situations that could have sparked the artist’s imagination. When examining Hopper’s “New York Interior” I first thought that it depicted a girl who had just returned from a ball and was resting following a  night out. Further into our class discussion, however, Professor Kahan shared her opinion, stating that the painting might have been an image of a girl sewing her dress, perhaps after performing at a ballet recital. The idea that she was a dancer definitely came from the fact that the muscles on the woman in the photo were extremely defined thanks to Hopper’s choice of shading and use of harsh lighting.

Harsh lighting, in my opinion, seems to be a recurring theme with Hopper. For example, in  “Nighthawks” another female figure became the victim to harsh lighting. The woman to the back of the painting looked “clown like” as a result of the fluorescent lighting in the painting, which caused her skin tone  to appear ghostly white. It also exaggerated her otherwise subtle makeup.  Another aspect of Hopper’s style is clearly his love for symmetry in his paintings. In my opinion, it almost appears as though he suffers from obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) when creating his works. In almost all of the works Professor Kahan showed us, I noticed a constant theme of shapes in each painting. For example, “Night Shadows” was predominantly vertical, “New york Interior” multiple, vertical rectangles, and “Early Sunday Morning” rectangles. I feel like creating a painting without any recurring shapes would lead to Hopper’s anxiety. In addition to different shapes characterizing Hopper’s style, I think his motif is characterized by emphasizing certain times of day (particularly the night or early morning) and specific settings like street corners. These specific traits are evident in both “Nighthawks” and “Night Shadows.”

In addition to Edward Hopper, wednesday’s seminar consisted of defining the ideas of man vs. woman in regards to each gender’s Ways of Seeing. When we looked at the example of Robert De Niro, what immediately registered in my mind was that a woman could never pull off the “I could hardly care about my image” look that Robert was. Because we have seen him play characters with this precise attitude no one would question it.  Other talented actors like Leonardo di Caprio, for example, would have never attended a film festival looking quite as disheveled. If a talented actress like Meryl Streep were to even attempt the same “look” I am sure it would be front page news.

This double standard toward the appearance of men and women has always seemed to be a part of our culture and though I dislike it, I am sure it will not cease to exist.

Stephanie Solanki, Seminar 9/12/12

In Wednesday’s class we actually discussed how “gazing” means to look at something on purpose with an intent to analyze it. Mona Lisa’s reciprocal gaze is a part of the painting that has baffled so many people for years. It is so distinct that if someone was to only show her eyes, I would know it was the Mona Lisa.

We also discussed how the perception of decency and class is different between men and women. For example, Robert De Niro can go to a premiere without shaving and trimming his hair, but every actress or female celebrity must look like she’s spent hours getting ready in order to be presentable. This, in my opinion, is not fair at all. I believe that double standard should not exist in today’s world. It would be unjust and debilitating to say that it is not good for a woman or man to make their own choices and behave however he or she is comfortable. However, this is my opinion.

One line that stuck out to me in class is “we ascribe power to a man because of who he is in the world.” If a man goes out into the world and does adventurous, innovative things, then he is a powerful man. He has been places that nobody has ever gone, and has done things that people are afraid to do. Women could do this, too, if they weren’t wearing their controlling hairnets. I mean to say that women must look modest and controlled at all times.  This is exemplified by the Mona Lisa, who is wearing a hairnet to control her hair. She must keep it perfect because that is the perception of beauty. Her whole life is about being under control, and not being able to venture out and do daring things. This is a very ancient sort of mindset, in my opinion.

Next we looked at the works of Edward Hopper. His works were all of real-life situations. His “American Landscape” work did not idealize rural American life. It actually made it look  quite warped because the dimensions were unique. For example, the cow looks just as big as the house from the point of view the spectator has. This is shows that the rural life of America can be a little scary at times. Hopper does make paintings that look distorted at times, but does so to make a point. This shows how real his work is. I think his style would be realism.


Seminar Class 09/12/12

The main topic of class on wednesday was about the idea of gaze in an artwork. Gaze is defined as a way of looking at or admiring something. In order to get a better understanding of what gaze is, we looked at an excerpt in chapter three in the book Ways of Seeing. This excerpt compared the appearance of men and the appearance of women. It discussed how women must always look their best and presentable while men do not. Women are judged more on their appearance than men are. To look at a few examples of this, we compared the Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci to a photo of the famous actor Robert De Niro. In the Mona Lisa, there is a picture of a women who is dressed to impress. We know that she is dressed in high quality clothing because the material on her sleeves looks like it was made of silk. This gives us the idea that she is an upper class woman. Her hair is done is beautifully placed curls and she also has a veil or hair net on to make sure her hair is always looking perfect. This gives the audience a good impression of her because of her modest and presentable look. However, when looking at the picture of Robert De Niro, he still gives the audience a good impression even though he does not look his best. In his picture, De Niro has aged. He has wrinkles on his face and gray colored hair. He has a five o’clock shadow on his face and his hair is not combed back nicely. Even though he may not seem presentable, the people of today’s society still think highly of him. Basically, he s allowed to look this way just because he is Robert De Niro. If a commoner looked the same way De Niro did in this picture, people would view this man as a bum instead. This shows that no matter how famous a women may be, she must always look presentable to get approval of the public. However, this idea does not apply to men.

In class, we also discussed the artwork of Edward Hopper and tried to analyze his style. One of his paintings that I found particularly interesting was American Landscape. In this painting, Hopper shows a house on a farm with some farm animals. It seems that there is also a road or train track about the house which implies that the house is located on the bottom of a hill. It is a picture of a typical American landscape. Hopper painted this in a three dimensional style horizontally. The three dimensions include the  sky at the top, then the house with the forestry in the background on the bottom of the hill, and then the top of the hill with the hay, train track, and farm animals. Another painting of Edward Hopper that I enjoyed was New York Interior. This painting shows the back of a women who is presumed to be a dancer because she is dressed in a ball gown. She is located in a small apartment in New York City and is sitting down on a sofa or bed next to a fireplace. Similarly to American Landscape, New York Interior is also painted three dimensionally. However, instead of it being painted horizontally it is painted vertically. The walls are vertical, the door in the background is vertical, and the structure of the fireplace and its columns are vertical as well. As a result of looking at these two paintings, I conclude that Edward Hopper’s style is to painting according to dimension and shape. In his paintings, he does not hide his shapes but instead makes them visible to the public eye.

Edward Hopper’s style

In this class session we discussed a particularly interesting topic found in Ways of Seeing, and that is the image of Men vs. Women. We determined from looking at a picture of Robert de Niro, that a man is capable, and always has been, of presenting himself in whichever way he chooses to the public without facing harsh judgement or discrimination. De Niro looked scruffy and tough, with slightly disheveled hair, and attire more on the casual side although he was attending an important event. Despite his appearance, no one mistook him for a sloppy man or a bum, because of his status in society. However, a woman celebrity would not slide by unnoticed had she not been looking the best she could at an important public event. This is an example of the prejudice society holds and the its difference in judgement towards men and women. We then discussed style and what it means to have style as an artist. Style in art often represents what is useful and popular in a time period. On a more personal level, style acts as a reflection of personality. Edward Hopper has a particular style that I greatly enjoy. I view his style to be centered on America and her values, tradition and culture. He painted many pictures while America was at war, and its people in unity, and also during periods of immigration. In this era many people came to America in search of the American dream, and cities were overflowing with middle to low class workers. This is possible inspiration for many paintings including “Nighthawks”. In his painting “American Landscape”, he captures an image of an American farm very well. It is most likely located in middle, rural America. The work has a dreary tone to it, as it lacks color and is overcast with lots of black, possibly to say he is not very fond of farm life. What is incredible about the picture is its timelessness. There is no telling when the image was created, because the same scenery could exist today. The painting “New York Interior” does a fantastic job capturing the essence of a classic city home. I imagine the girl in the work to be a dancer based on her muscularity. It is possible she just returned home from a long night of work representing the theme of the working woman, which can also be seen in Nighthawks. Edward Hopper’s style is centered around realism and America and its people. I think he is a strong supporter of the working class since he himself belonged to it for a period of time, and he embodies that support in his work.

Wednesday – Edward Hopper’s Style

In class on Wednesday, we first discussed the idea of gaze. By definition, it means to be looking at something and thinking about it. For example, the Mona Lisa knows someone is looking at it because the eyes are gazing at us, the spectators. I think the smirk indicates that the gaze is reciprocated. The whole notion of gaze becomes one with the painting. Shortly after discussing that, Professor Kahan brought up the connection between Ways of Seeing, with how one views various pictures and other forms of artwork. We first took a look at a picture resembling Robert De Niro, and how we collectively ascribe power to him because just of the man he is. But, if all of his physical attributes such as: messy hair and scraggly beard were attached to someone other than Robert De Niro; we would most definitely think of that person in a negative manner. The other piece of artwork we stumbled on in relation to gaze was the, Mona Lisa. From what I can see, her face is smooth, her hair is done with curls, and her dress looks like its made of silk, which represents her stature in society. In connection with the picture of Mr. De Niro, women always have to look presentable and they can’t do what Robert does appearance wise, without getting judged significantly. The next order of business was depicting Edward Hopper’s style in his twelve paintings. Style, in relation to fashion, identifies the time period it’s in and what was useful during that particular period. For example, in the Fall 2012 collection, a good portion of various clothing lines represent the military, because it’s a way of showing solidarity, and it epitomizes what exactly is going on in this span of time. I think Edward Hopper’s style has a definite duality, in the way that it pertains to both the past as well as the present. This is seen quite lucidly in his various works of art. In the first painting, American Landscape, a house is placed in the middle of a farm. Some elements that make it look frightening are the size of the cows in relation to the house, the dimensions are flattened out, and it looks as if this particular house is in the middle of nowhere. The way it is painted, doesn’t allow me to see the bottom of it because it is below the train tracks. This artwork looks like it is part of the United States and can represent early America as well as present day. This idea flows coherently in Mr. Hopper’s style because all his paintings are universal and timeless. In his next painting, New York Interior there is a fireplace and painting in the picture, which can clearly relate to the early 1900s and the 21st century. The clock on the mantel, the ridges in the wood, and the columns are all decorative tools used to depict his style as it relates to classicism. I think, the woman in the painting is probably a dancer or maybe works in a dance hall. The clothes she is wearing leads me to conceive the notion that she could be a ballerina or a wealthy woman who just came back from a ball, and is taking off her heals and massaging her exhausted feet. In the third painting by Edward Hopper, Night Shadows a cartoonish image immediately pops into my head when I first laid my eyes on it. Therefore, from the start, the style embodies a present day take on cartoon shows. It looks as if the person is in a hurry due to his abnormally large strides and the tall lamppost causing a shadow. I think these entire paintings have another side to Edward Hopper’s style, which happens to be the mysterious factor. In American Landscape, New York Interior, and Night Shadows there are many elements in the painting that enable me to formulate questions in my head consisting of: how, why, and what is trying to be actually depicted. Therefore, I presume that the artist’s style exemplifies the duality of the past and present (universality), and the enigmatic side, in relation to the three works of art described.

Edward Hopper’s Style: 9/12/12

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.