38 NYC Hopper's Studio

[Edward Hopper, Self Portrait, 1903-1906]

In some ways, my subject was a New England and New York one: Hopper himself. And I was working from it the way he worked from his. I was there studying and fact-finding, and then I would take my notes back home to study and write up. Hopper often sketched on site but usually painted final versions in his studio.

Hopper's studio was in a building that is now the offices of New York University's Social Work Department. NYU took over the building near the end of his life. Jo wrote, "The war of Washington square is going on. …nefarious NY University has obtained a lease on our house and is trying to throw us all out [from] where everyone has turned up at one time or another: Eakins painted a portrait, Paderowski gave a recital, Dos Passos wrote Three Soldiers, Guy Du Bois, William Glackens, Ernest Lawson, Eleanore Mylie, Frank Harris, The Dial born in the first floor, etc." But Hopper managed to live there until the end of his life in 1967, and Jo died in the apartment the next year.

I nervously asked the co-ed at the front counter whether I could see the studio, and she sighed with the world-weariness of a New York cop, "Take that elevator to the top floor; studio's on your right." The elevator seemed old enough to be from Hopper's days, though they didn't have one, which Jo so lamented that she immortalized it in a picture titled 40 Steps up to Chez Hopper.

The room had the Spartan, light-filled feel for which Hopper's paintings are famous. A huge slanted skylight sifted sunrays onto the white plaster walls and bowing wooden floor slathered in gray paint.

Here, out a sooty back window latticed with black wires, lay the view that he immortalized in paintings like City Roofs; My Roof; Skylights; and Roofs, Washington Square. Here, dominating the studio's front room, squatted his huge printing press through which he rolled the etchings that launched his career, and here also loomed the ten-foot-high easel built by Hopper's own hands shortly after moving in here. This top-story studio was a perfect perch for a voyeuristic painter like Hopper, and here out the front windows remained the view of Washington Square that he painted in his canvases Shakespeare at Dusk and November, Washington Square. Maybe he used people he spied below in the park or sidewalks as models for characters in other paintings.

Here also huddled the tiny fireplace, untouched, above it a portrait of Hopper by Jo. And here, in a little nook between the back and front rooms, sat a dorm-room-sized frig and zinc sink. A tiny decrepit oven rested behind the other door. These appeared to be the same appliances as were left there when Jo died.

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