84 Andover, MA: Phillips

[Andover Parade]

Andover, Massachusetts:
Freight Cars, Gloucester and Manhattan Bridge Loop

The Hopper paintings in Andover were not available for me to see when I visited, and technically they didn't hang in a "public" museum. The reason there were three paintings here, in what is essentially a suburb, is because Andover is home to an elite boarding school where adolescents go to be isolated from their families: Phillips Andover Academy. Phillips Andover was founded in 1770 by Samuel Phillips, and alumni include George Bush (1 and 2), Dr. Benjamin Spock, and former Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

The Addison Gallery of American Art is on the academy's campus, though it holds its own with many big-city or university art museums and is available free for anyone who wants to visit. (The day I stopped in, the person who signed in below me was from Ireland.) The museum's founder intended it "to cultivate and foster in [the students of Phillips Academy] a love for the beautiful." It began in 1930 with works by prominent American artists, including Hopper. The two here are both from 1928.

Manhattan Bridge Loop shows blood red buildings along a deserted elevated train platform below a flat sky. An upside-down brown square U (a trolley scaffold) dominates the otherwise empty platform horizon from which a lone figure walks off left.

In Freight Cars, Gloucester, Hopper's magical yellow light makes everything holy, both the magnificence of the church in the background and the tawdriness of the freight cars at rest in the foreground. Edward and Grace Root of Hamilton College in upstate New York bought Freight Cars, Gloucester, but it ended up back where it began (Andover is but a half hour's drive from Hopper's beloved Gloucester).

In 1939, the museum asked Hopper for a statement. Hopper wrote back that he had invested "a long time on the proportions of the canvas, so that it will do for the design, as nearly as possible what I wish it to do. Carrying the main horizontal lines of the design with little interruption to the edges of the picture, is to ... make one conscious of the spaces and elements beyond the limits of the scene itself."

"The picture was planned very carefully in my mind before starting it, but except for a few small black-and-white sketches made from the fact, I had no other concrete data, but relied on ... my memory." He grumbled that "[t]he preliminary sketches would do little for you in explaining the picture. The color, design, and form have all been subjected, consciously or otherwise, to considerable simplification."

Hopper made a gift of the two studies for Manhattan Bridge Loop to the Addison. It's listed in the books as "anonymous donor." The book about their collection says, "The museum does not encourage gifts from artists to avoid potential embarrassment, but when an opportunity arose to acquire something from an outstanding artist, custom was bent."

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