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Tue Sep 29, 2020, 11:25 AM

Early Works by Edward Hopper Found to Be Copies of Other Artists

A grad student’s discovery “cuts straight through the widely held perception of Hopper as an American original,” without a debt to others, a Whitney curator said.



Most grad students in art history dream of discovering an unknown work by whatever great artist they are studying. Louis Shadwick has achieved just the opposite: In researching his doctorate on Edward Hopper, for the storied Courtauld Institute in London, Mr. Shadwick has discovered that three of the great American’s earliest oil paintings, from the 1890s, can only barely count as his original images. Two are copies of paintings Mr. Shadwick found reproduced in a magazine for amateur artists published in the years before Hopper’s paintings. The reproductions even came with detailed instructions for making the copies.

Mr. Shadwick spells out his discovery in the October issue of The Burlington Magazine, a venerable art historical journal.“It was real detective work,” Mr. Shadwick explained, Zooming from his sunny apartment in London. At 30, he’s older than most of his graduate-school peers because of a longish spell fronting an alt-rock trio (White Kite), a past not revealed in the blue button-down he wore when we talked and his close-cropped dark hair. Mr. Shadwick was working out the earliest influences on Hopper’s art — one aspect of his Ph.D., half-finished so far — when he figured out that an American Tonalist painter named Bruce Crane (1857-1937) might have played some kind of role.



Louis Shadwick found that Bruce Crane’s “A Winter Sunset,” circa 1880s, in The Art Interchange magazine, was an almost perfect match for Hopper’s later teenage work, right down to the horizontal streak of light.Credit...Bruce Crane
Then, early this summer, in what Mr. Shadwick called a “eureka moment” of pandemic Googling, he landed on “A Winter Sunset,” a painting by Crane from an 1890 issue of The Art Interchange that was an almost perfect match for one of Hopper’s teenage works, long known as “Old Ice Pond at Nyack,” circa 1897, depicting a winter landscape with a streak of waning light. (A gallery is selling it now, with a price estimate of $375,000; the change in its status might affect buyers’ offers.) Mr. Shadwick went on to discover similar sources for all but one of Hopper’s first oils.

Scholars have talked about those early Hoppers as showing us his childhood home in Nyack, N.Y., and as examples of his preternatural talent as a self-trained young painter, “and actually, both these things are not true — none of the oils are of Nyack, and Hopper had a middling talent for oil painting, until he went to art school,” said Mr. Shadwick, adding, “Even the handling of the paint is pretty far from the accomplished works he was making even five years after that.” Those weak brush-skills are now the only thing in those earliest oils that anyone can lay claim to as Hopper’s.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/28/arts/design/edward-hopper-copies-paintings.html

Nevertheless Hopper's later works do demonstrate his own unique originality.

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Response to Zorro (Original post)

Tue Sep 29, 2020, 11:30 AM

1. So...Hopper had to practice and learn to become an artist?

Is that somehow odd?

Please.

The only oddity would be that his student works somehow became revered as originals. Surely he would have been surprised by that.

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Response to lagomorph777 (Reply #1)

Tue Sep 29, 2020, 11:37 AM

3. Well, I'm not going to question where an artist finds inspiration...

But, this is an exact duplicate, right down to the shading and brush strokes.

A copy is not art, it is a copy.

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Response to Hugin (Reply #3)

Tue Sep 29, 2020, 11:45 AM

5. It was probably never intended to be art. Looks like this was part of his learning process.

Exactly as the magazine intended.

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Response to lagomorph777 (Reply #5)

Tue Sep 29, 2020, 12:19 PM

7. I don't know the history of this particular painting.

But, if it's controversial, it's likely due to the art establishment's eternal quest for 'lost masterworks' to pad their portfolios rather than any malfeasance or misrepresentation by the artist.

It is probably as you say, a technical piece produced as he was learning how to paint from a source who's technique he admired.

It works both ways, I've seen what are obviously works by a particular artist rejected because adding additional pieces would diminish the overall value of the known collection.

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Response to Hugin (Reply #3)

Tue Sep 29, 2020, 12:32 PM

8. Art students learn technique, problem solving, color theory, etc. by copying other artists

 

And this actually is not an exact duplication. There are many original and unique touches, perhaps intentional or perhaps not.

It is still art - as anyone who tries to do this will tell you - but the purpose of it is not to create great or original art, but to learn.

As I said, this is no big deal.

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Response to StarfishSaver (Reply #8)

Tue Sep 29, 2020, 01:56 PM

10. Agreed, no big deal at all

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Response to Zorro (Original post)

Tue Sep 29, 2020, 11:33 AM

2. A critical part of art study is studying and copying other artists. I don't understand the big deal

 

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Response to StarfishSaver (Reply #2)

Tue Sep 29, 2020, 11:46 AM

6. +1 Right?

I don't get why people are surprised by this.

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Response to Zorro (Original post)

Tue Sep 29, 2020, 11:38 AM

4. A grad student should know that part of an art student's training is copying masters.

I have a sketchbook full of copied drawings. We sign our name and then write "after VanGogh" for example. https://www.liveabout.com/copying-paintings-of-the-masters-2578707

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Response to Zorro (Original post)

Tue Sep 29, 2020, 12:44 PM

9. Hopper was a student and a teenager

an almost perfect match for one of Hopper’s teenage works,


Sounds more like this grad student is milking it for all it's worth.

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Response to Zorro (Original post)

Tue Sep 29, 2020, 02:20 PM

11. Sounds like the scholars were suckered

 

That's what I took from the link. It's fine for students to learn their craft. But it's laughable for later generation scholars to be so desperate to pump someone as a prodigy that they abuse terms like preternatural talent.

I applaud the doctoral candidate. The one guarantee in a study like this is that he didn't catch anything. Not even close, from more than a century later. Guarantee other works by Hopper were copies also, but merely not published in high profile sources or locatable so far removed.

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Response to Zorro (Original post)

Tue Sep 29, 2020, 02:36 PM

12. Why did it take until now to discover this? Seems pretty obvious to me

You'd think any art historian would have noticed this.

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