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The Edward Hopper Drawing exhibition at the Whitney Museum of Art offers an interesting insight into the creative process of one of America’s most celebrated painters of the 20th Century. The works displayed span over several decades and pair his preparatory drawings with the corresponding paintings. I’ve always been fascinated with design processes… the decisions and meticulous planning that lead to the final work. So, when the early drawings of my favorite Hopper painting Nighthawks were unveiled to the public, I knew I had to see it in person.

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Hopper’s drawings were never in color. Instead he preferred to use either chalk or charcoal and make color notation for when he did move on to painting. This is surprising to me for many reasons, namely because his color palette is so sophisticated. Something I’ve always thought required a lot of manipulation and testing. I also found it surprising how his final paintings often differed from his preparatory drawings, pointing to the conclusion that Hopper indeed often worked on instinct and feel in the painting stage. Notice the various positions explored for a man with his back facing the audience, and the interaction of the couple sitting at the counter. 

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With sometimes more than 50 sketches for a particular painting, it is no wonder how Hopper has achieved such dynamic works of art that has helped define the painting landscape in America. The exhibition is staged at the Whitney through October 6 with free entrance on Fridays from 6-9 pm. 

All images are courtesy the Whitney Museum of American Art and its exhibition publication, Hopper Drawing by Carter E. Foster

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