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(Ground Swell) Edward Hopper's enthusiasm for the sea developed throughout his life as a child in Nyack, New York, then a thriving Hudson River port with an active shipyard. Years later, in 1934, he and his wife built a house and studio in South Truro, Massachusetts, where he produced a number of oil paintings and watercolours reflecting his interest in nautical subjects. In this quiet, voyeuristic view, the several figures on board the boat are disengaged from each other. See more
Their gaze seems fixed on the bell buoy, and their trance-like state is reinforced by the rolling of the waves beneath them.
A ground swell is often caused by a distant storm, felt even under clear skies - so a buoy rings even when there is no danger. The idea of a threat in an idyllic setting has crucial precedents. In a work painted around 1639 by the French classicist Nicolas Poussin, shepherds stumble upon a grave whose inscription - 'I too have lived in Arcadia' - introduces death into their idyll. Hopper's woman and her three half-naked men echo Poussin's ecstatic figures.
On closer inspection, the viewer will notice Hopper's usual themes - mystery, solitude, alienation.
Edward Hopper is one of the major figures of the American realist movement, with paintings such as House by the Railroad (1925) and Nighthawks (1942).
Born in 1882 in New York State, Edward Hopper entered the prestigious New York School of Art after his secondary education. He moved to New York in 1908 where he was hired as an illustrator for advertising campaigns. He soon tired of the job and exhibited paintings in his spare time. See more
Around 1915, he painted scenes of American life and in 1920, he presented his first exhibition at the Whitney Studio Club, which was a great success. In 1924 he married Josephine Verstille Nivison.
His particular style, made of simple forms and rather dark colours, plays on the contrasts between light and shadow. Hopper managed to diversify his realistic approach, with staged landscapes, sometimes urban and sometimes rural. The characters he paints often inspire an impression of solitude and exclusion. Most of his oil paintings reflect a country in the throes of economic and social change. In 1945, Edward Hopper was admitted to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He received numerous awards and honours, including the title of Doctor of Fine Arts from the Art Institute of Chicago in 1955.