Edward Hopper as seen by David Williamson.
by Charlie Leck
The author of Ecclesiastes was puzzled
At the way we are wired.
“He has made everything beautiful in its time,” he wrote.
“He has also set eternity in the hearts of men;
Yet they cannot fathom what God has done
From beginning to end. ”
Hopper was there at the right times
To find beauty in dark places.
The people in his pictures
Tick to the beat of an eternal clock.
This week I received a lovely little book (about 7”x7”) from David Williamson, a reader in Wales. David posts a wonderful and intelligent little blog (VanPeebles Land) a few times each week, and I delight in following it. David, an artist himself, who writes for a newspaper for a day job, blogs about politics, theology and spirituality, art and his travels. He’s a keen and sensitive writer and a keen and sensitive man. Whenever he posts a new blog, I go there for a fill-up.
Some time ago I purchased David Williamson’s book, Redeeming Creatures. It was quite an extraordinary theological statement about hopefulness and positive living and our call to both. I loved it.
More recently, David’s new “little” book arrived and delighted the living heck out of me. I’ve spun through it three times already and enjoyed it more than I can say. About the American artist, John Hopper, it’s a picture book with some smooth little verse by David.
The book is: Eternal Light (A spiritual Appreciation of Edward Hopper). It’s a nice, bright and comfortable book to hold in your hands. It prompts you to go and read more about Edward Hopper (1882-1967) so you might understand him as well and beautifully as David Williamson does.
Artchive tells me that, in order to understand his art, I must understand how intensely private, personal and introspective Edward Hopper was.
Edward Lucie-Smith, in Lives of the Great 20th Century Artists, wrote of him….
"Edward Hopper, the best-known American realist of the inter-war period, once said: 'The man's the work. Something doesn't come out of nothing.' This offers a clue to interpreting the work of an artist who was not only intensely private, but who made solitude and introspection important themes in his painting.
"He was born in the small Hudson River town of Nyack, New York State, on 22 July 1882. His family were solidly middle-class: his father owned a dry goods store where the young Hopper sometimes worked after school. By 1899 he had already decided to become an artist, but his parents persuaded him to begin by studying commercial illustration because this seemed to offer a more secure future. He first attended the New York School of Illustrating (more obscure than its title suggests), then in 1900 transferred to the New York School of Art. Here the leading figure and chief instructor was William Merritt Chase (1849-1916), an elegant imitator of Sargent. He also worked under Robert Henri (1869-1929), one of the fathers of American Realism - a man whom he later described as 'the most influential teacher I had', adding 'men didn't get much from Chase; there were mostly women in the class.' Hopper was a slow developer - he remained at the School of Art for seven years, latterly undertaking some teaching work himself"
Williamson, with a clear way of expressing himself right from his gut, explains Hopper more precisely to me…
I don’t know if there are photo albums in heaven
That the saints can fill with snapshots of life from their days on earth.
But if Nighthawks is the only picture we can see on the other side
That will be enough.
Philosophers could spend a trillion hours asking if there is a God.
But all of us can shudder in astonishment at the
Confounding miracle of existence
And puzzle why
We have been beckoned to play a part in this pageant.
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