Barber Shop didn't sell for twenty years, perhaps because it was so large and was finished during the Depression when few could afford big paintings. Or maybe it was, as John Updike called it, "a relatively unsuccessful painting." It was still around in the 1950s when it was bought by this museum's founder, Roy Neuberger, who started the investment firm Neuberger Berman.
Neuberger was actually an acquaintance of the Hoppers. In his biography (which came out when he was 94 and he puckishly called So Far So Good), he told of how he accompanied Ed and Jo to the opening party for an exhibit where one of Hopper's painting was shown. Neuberger recalled Jo complaining that he fawned over Edward when she was just as good an artist. Neuberger considered it "one of his strokes of luck to have been able to obtain [Barber Shop]," and he called Hopper the "greatest master of mood since … Vermeer." "I collect art," Neuberger wrote, "because I love works of art…. [F]or all the real pleasures I have enjoyed in knowing artists, it is the work of art that means the most to me." Hopper would agree. Maybe Hopper's preference for art over humans explains why his scenes are as sparsely populated as Purchase.