Edward Hopper at the Museo della Fondazione Roma

Nighthawks diner reproduction at the Rome Hopper show
Recent exhibitions at the Museo della Fondazione Roma (Museo del Corso) have been noteworthy not only because of the excellent artistic choices of the curators, but also because of a very special knack they have for hanging shows with nothing short of theatrical flair – the Hiroshige exhibition last year led the visitor into the galleries by way of a Japanese bridge, whilst the rooms at the Niki de Saint Phalle exhibition housing her garden sculptures, for example, were scattered with real leaves. The current Edward Hopper exhibition on Via del Corso is no exception to this trend and opens by giving visitors the opportunity to physically step inside one of the most iconic and indeed, most parodied, paintings of the twentieth century – Hopper's 1942 masterpiece Nighthawks – with a life size reproduction of the street-corner diner filling the entrance to the show. Visitors can even be photographed sitting at the bar. This may, of course, be an elaborate case of smoke and mirrors to distract us from the fact that Hopper's most famous work is actually missing from this exhibition, but nonetheless it's a wonderfully fun and engaging way of taking the viewer into Hopper's world.

This show, as with other recent exhibitions at the Museo del Corso, guides the visitor through rooms that are arranged somewhat thematically and that do not always follow a strictly chronological order and explore the artist's work via seven main areas: Hopper's self-portraits; Hopper's early work as an illustrator; Hopper in Paris; Hopper as a print-maker; Hopper's preparatory drawings together with the paintings; Hopper's erotic works and the splendid closing room exploring the essence of the artist and entitled “Time, place and memory”.

Whilst this exhibition is being billed as one of the big crowd pleasers of the season, in many ways this is also a rather scholarly show that provides a huge wealth of Hopper material that gives an overview of the artist's entire oeuvre. Certainly many of the larger famous paintings are here - Second Story Sunlight (used on the poster and appearing on bus-tops and billboards all over Rome), Pennsylvania Coal Town, Seven A. M., Cape Cod Sunset and South Carolina Morning are worth the price of the entrance fee alone - but with so many sketches, water colours and even commercial graphic design work on display, there is plenty here to surprise the casual visitor and allow the more serious student to dig deeper into Hopper's working methods.
© Whitney Museum of American Art
(Web resolution, fair use)
Boy and Moon (1906-07) from his graphic design years is delightful, whilst the early large monotone oil painting Figures in Automobile Racing Alongside Freightcar (1922) looks like a freeze-frame from a black and white gangster movie! I particularly enjoyed the room dedicated to Hopper's etchings from the 1920s and in particular the evocative and almost cinematographic American Landscape (below) and The Lonely House, as well as the eerie Night Shadows and Night in the Park.


© Whitney Museum of American Art - (Web resolution, fair use)

Edward Hopper at the Museo della Fondazione Roma is curated by Carter Foster and produced with Comune di Milano and Cultura and Arthemisia Group in collaboration with the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York and the Fondation de l’Hermitage in Lausanne. It continues until 13th June 2010.