Collection: Edward Hopper and the American Hotel

About the Exhibition


From October 26, 2019-February 23, 2020, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts presents the premiere of Edward Hopper and the American Hotel, the first in-depth study of hospitality settings depicted in the works of one of the most celebrated American artists. Edward Hopper (1882–1967) found artistic value and cultural significance in the most commonplace sites and settings. Hopper’s spare depictions of familiar public and private spaces are often understood within the contexts of isolation, loneliness, and ennui of early and mid-20th-century America. As this exhibition shows, however, Hopper’s immersion in the world of hotels, motels, hospitality services, and mobility in general presents a new framework for understanding the artist’s work.

Curated by Dr. Leo G. Mazow, the Louise B. and J. Harwood Cochrane Curator of American Art at VMFA, assisted by Dr. Sarah G. Powers, the exhibition features Hopper’s depictions of hotels, motels, tourist homes, boardinghouses, and apartment hotels. These images of hospitality settings both challenge and expand the themes of loneliness and fragmentation usually attributed to his work. They inform our understanding of a shifting American landscape and America’s fascination with the new possibilities of automobile travel and the attendant flourishing of hotels, motels, and tourist homes. Hopper was not only a frequent traveler and guest of all variety of accommodations, but worked as an illustrator for hotel trade magazines early in his career. Thus, his work offers an insider’s perspective into the hospitality services industry during a pivotal moment in its evolution. Exhibition visitors will recognize how hotels and motels—as figurative or metaphorical destinations—have fixed themselves in our experiences and permeated our collective psyche.

The only East Coast venue, VMFA presents sixty-five paintings and works on paper by Hopper, along with thirty-five works by other artists including John Singer Sargent, David Hockney, Berenice Abbott, and others who explored similar themes. The exhibition additionally features Hopper’s early commercial work from two widely read hotel trade magazines of the period: Hotel Management and Tavern Topics. These cover illustrations set the stage for Hopper’s continuing interest and work in the field of hospitality services. Also on display are materials related to Hopper’s trips to Richmond, Virginia, such as when, in 1953, he stayed at the Jefferson Hotel while he served as a juror in VMFA’s biennial exhibition of contemporary works.

The paintings, drawings, prints, and photographs in the exhibition are accompanied by enlightening documents and ephemera that lend a fascinating immediacy. After Edward Hopper married Josephine “Jo” Nivison—an artist in her own right—in 1924, the two frequently took to the road in search of subject matter during the many years of their marriage. From their New York City apartment or their cottage in Cape Cod, they traveled across the country and into Mexico, with Jo documenting their trips in diaries, three of which will be displayed in the exhibition. The diaries contain Jo’s meticulous accounts describing the couple’s itinerary, lodging, and impressions of the many sites they visited. The exhibition also includes maps and postcards to illustrate the places and lodgings the couple encountered on their travels, picturing the details of their life on the road. These documents not only offer firsthand descriptions but also link directly to Edward’s later paintings, as the sites they visited often inspired elements in his composite scenes. Visitors will also have the opportunity to follow the Hoppers’ routes using a unique interactive touchscreen map, which will allow an exploration of the places the couple visited on three road trips from 1941 to 1953.

Read more at Edward Hopper and the American Hotel
6 products
Western Motel by Edward Hopper
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Rue du singe qui pêche by Charles Demuth
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Sierra Madre at Monterrey by Edward Hopper
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Rooms by the Sea by Edward Hopper
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Rooms for Tourists by Edward Hopper
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Chop Suey by Edward Hopper
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