Thursday, December 8, 2011

Hopper’s Places

San Francisco, 

Working from drawings of ordinary restaurants in New York, Edward Hopper painted Tables for Ladies in his studio near Washington Square in 1930. The photo on the menu below from Chris’s Grill and Coffee Shop in San Francisco is reminiscent of the eatery shown on this large canvas (now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art), with the grapefruits lined up in the front of the window display.

Although Hopper’s seemingly realistic paintings were often based on actual locations, his finished artworks looked dramatically different than the spots they supposedly depicted. This is marvelously illustrated in art historian Gail Levin’s book Hopper’s Places that shows twenty-four of his paintings paired with snapshots of the location. Compared to the painting, the photographs are dull and unexciting, lacking the perspective, light, and rich color which Hopper imposed on these scenes. In order to create this effect, he crossed the country five times between 1941 and 1955, spending several months a year on the road, sketching average places like Chris’s Grill. In the end, he created a series of unforgettable images. Charged with personal emotion, they express the solitude, loneliness, and boredom he saw embodied in the everyday life of twentieth-century America.

Hopper was a great artist who changed how we perceive the modern world. Nevertheless, the people who inhabited his places were less detached and more optimistic than he was, as reflected by the cheerful poem on the back of this menu titled: “Eat, Drink Be Merry—For Tomorrow You May Be Out of Town.”


R said...

Being a huge fan of E. Hopper, this is one of my favorite posts of yours. Reading the menu, I can almost feel what it must have been like to sit in the restaurant at that time in history. Thanks for your wonderful blog!
R. Lhulier

Henry Voigt said...

Thank you chef. Much appreciated.

Jeanne Schinto said...

Your interest in menus and those of my husband, Bob, converge here. He has a long-term project on which he lectures periodically -- clocks in art. This Hopper is one of the selections, given the gallery clock built into the wooden paneling! I'll have to direct him to this blog entry and also to Gail Levin's book, for more information! Thanks as always for good writing!