The Mansard Roof (1923). Watercolor on paper. Brooklyn Museum of Art.
Edward Hopper: “At Gloucester, when everybody else would be painting ships and the waterfront, I’d just go fish around looking at houses. It is a solid-looking town. The roofs are very bold, the cornices bolder. The dormers cast very positive shadows. The sea captain influence I guess — the boldness of ships.”
From Hopper’s Places (1998, Univ. of California Press), by Gail Levin: “Hopper painted The Mansard Roof in the Rocky Neck section of Gloucester, which even today is something of an artists’ colony. He described Rocky Neck as ‘the residential district where the old sea captains had their houses’ and later recalled that it had interested him ‘because of the variety of roofs and windows, the mansard roof, which has always interested me…’ He also noted that he had ‘sat out in the street… it was very windy’ and offered: ‘It’s one of my good watercolors of the early period.’ Actually, Hopper’s view was from the back of the house, down toward the water, which must have increased the effect of the wind he so vividly recollected. Today the house is well preserved but missing the yellow awnings that he caught fluttering in the strong breeze.”
From Silent Theater: The Art of Edward Hopper (2007, Phaidon Press Ltd.), by Walter Wells: “To be sure, not all of Hopper’s houses yield symbolic narrative. William Boyd’s distinction between the oils and the more ‘straightforward’ watercolors needs recalling: Hopper’s watercolors of architectured structures tend simply to manifest his affection for that genre. Even so, his preference for certain anachronistic styles makes even those watercolors metaphors for a real or imagined past. Hopper’s attraction to mansard roofs, for example, while expressing itself in exquisite representational watercolors like Talbot’s House, Haskell’s House, or The Mansard Roof, also makes each an allusion to that bygone period in America — the 1870s, immediately before his birth — when French Second Empire style was the vogue in domestic architecture.”