Anderson’s House (1926)

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Anderson’s House (1926). Watercolor on paper. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

From Hopper’s Places (1998, Univ. of California Press), by Gail Levin: “More characteristic of this [autumn 1926] visit is Anderson’s House, which depicts a typical Gloucester three-storey wooden house raked by sunlight. Today it is painted a different color and missing its shutters, but even the surrounding houses are intact, although the one in the distance no longer has a red roof. At the top of his composition, Hopper cleverly cropped the house’s gable, pushing the viewer’s eye back down to the repeated rectangular shapes below.”

From Edward Hopper’s New England (1993, Pomegranate Artbooks), by Carl Little: “A collection of Hopper’s portraits of Gloucester houses might serve as a guide to the architecture of that seacoast city. In the course of four visits to the area, in 1923, ’24, ’26 and ’28, he painted a variety of structures. As was his habit throughout his career, Hopper often provided the names of the owners of specific houses in the titles of his paintings, thereby lending further personality to these domiciles.”

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Marty Welch’s House (1928)

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Marty Welch’s House (1928). Watercolor on paper. Private collection.

The 80-odd years that have passed since Hopper first drew inspiration from this house have exacted an unpleasant toll on the structure’s once-proud appearance. The warmth and soft light that, back then, enveloped the front visage of the place has given way to a harsh, cruel, all-too-modern reality. Standing outside the address, on a forgotten back street, you sense that the present occupants are ignorant of both Marty Welch and Edward Hopper.

Beyond the ugly brown that now coats the home, there’s also been an unfortunate transformation of the right-hand side yard of the old Welch place, as the sturdy tree that once stood there has given way to a rusty swing set (beneath which lie discarded toys, strewn haphazardly about). Making matters worse, the solid, unassuming white-picket fence that formerly lined the street has been supplanted by yet another chain-link barrier. Wires run everywhere overhead. The side porch of the house is enclosed; the shutters, discarded.

Captain Welch is memorialized here. Apparently, he was “a good Elk.”

Prospect Street, Gloucester (1928)

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Prospect Street, Gloucester (1928). Watercolor on paper. Private collection.

Sun on Prospect Street ~ a.k.a., Street Scene (1934). Oil on canvas. Cincinnati Art Museum.

From Hopper’s Places (1998, Univ. of California Press), by Gail Levin: “Prospect Street still appears as it did when Hopper painted it in 1928, with the towers of Our Lady of Good Voyage in the distance. The sun porch of the house in the foreground has been enclosed, and other houses on the street have new roofs and different colors, but the basic look remains the same. Street lamps and traffic signs have been added; the tops of the church’s twin towers are now bright blue; and the cars are updated from the 1920s. Light and shadow still play upon the rhythmic shapes of gables, roofs, projecting doorways, and dormer windows to create the varied composition of visual shapes that appealed to Hopper.”

From Edward Hopper: The Art and the Artist (1999, W.W. Norton & Co.), also by Gail Levin: “Here are the shapes and forms that fascinated Hopper to such a degree that six years later he painted an oil, Sun on Prospect Street, based upon this watercolor [Prospect Street]. Later Hopper felt dissatisfied with the canvas, perhaps because, in retrospect, it seemed to lack mood or psychological statement, as well as the immediacy of the watercolor medium.”

House on Middle Street (1928)

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House on Middle Street (1928). Watercolor on paper. Currier Museum of Art.

From Edward Hopper: The Art and the Artist (1999, W.W. Norton & Co.), by Gail Levin: “Hopper used watercolor with a sense of confidence, improvising as he went along. He would apply the pigments with only a pencil sketch faintly outlining the structures he intended to paint. What interested him was not the creation of textures or the manipulation of the medium, but the recording of light. Light was the language through which Hopper expressed the forms and views before him.”

Gloucester Street (1926)

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Gloucester Street (1926). Oil on canvas. Private collection.

From Hopper’s Places (1998, Univ. of California Press), by Gail Levin: “During September [1926], working outdoors at the nearby corner of Church and Pine streets, Hopper painted Gloucester Street, depicting three houses with gables in the foreground and a fourth building in the distance. The canvas resembles the watercolors in subject matter and composition, with cropped buildings on both sides. Today, except for color, this row of houses appears much the same as it did to Hopper. Only incidental changes have occurred: the picket fence across the street is now chain link; the houses that have lost their shutters; arched windows have been replaced by cheaper rectangular ones; picket fences and railings have been added. The play of sunlight falling on the architecture still animates the scene with light and shadow, although the bright polychrome Hopper depicted has now been replaced by a uniform white, calling less attention to the houses’ eccentric forms and individuality.”

Portuguese Church (1923)

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Portuguese Church (1923). Watercolor on paper. Private collection.

From Hopper’s Places (1998, Univ. of California Press), by Gail Levin: “When Hopper returned to Gloucester during the summer of 1923 and encountered his former schoolmate Jo Nivison, he was prompted to take up painting in watercolor, if only to be a more compatible companion for their excursions. The blossoming romance and Hopper’s proficiency in the medium both encouraged him to continue. He abandoned the opaque gouache that he had employed in his commercial work and explored the delicate transparency of watercolor, allowing the white of the paper to play a role in his composition. He developed a freer, more spontaneous way of handling paint and investigated luminosity with a new fervor.”

Gloucester Roofs (1928)

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Gloucester Roofs (1928). Watercolor on paper. Private collection.

There’s a Boston Globe story here that mentions the present-day owners of a nearby property, as of 2007. Sadly, the top rails of the stairway, referenced in the story as having been mangled by a snow plow, remain in a state of neglect and disrepair.