Mr and Mrs Hopper
- Edward Hopper edited by Sheena Wagstaff
Tate Gallery, 256 pp, £29.99, May 2004, ISBN 1 85437 533 4
Edward Hopper languished into his forties as a commercial illustrator. He got his first break thanks to a boost from a fellow artist called Josephine Verstille Nivison, who in the fall of 1923 got the Brooklyn Museum to include him in a group show to which she had been invited to contribute. He married her the following year. Success of a sort followed. Hopper’s painting of a tall, old-fashioned house, cut off by the modern encroachment of a railroad track, was the first painting acquired by the new Museum of Modern Art, and he had his first retrospective there three years later, in 1933. His watercolours and canvases were snapped up by patrons and museums almost as soon as they were finished. He had major museum shows.
Vol. 26 No. 17 · 2 September 2004
The Whitney Museum of American Art did not, as Gail Levin has it in her piece on Edward Hopper, ‘discard whatever it thought was Nivison’s’ (LRB, 24 June). The museum owns more than two hundred pieces by Hopper’s wife, Josephine Nivison. It loaned or gave many of her oil paintings to hospitals in New York City to hang in offices and reception areas. Some were discarded. However, the watercolours and a few oils have been kept in storage at the museum alongside works from the permanent collection. Though none of Nivison’s work is on display at the museum, four of her Whitney paintings are being loaned for a group exhibition that will open at Brigham Young University in January.
Elizabeth Thompson Colleary
College of New Rochelle, New York
Vol. 26 No. 18 · 23 September 2004
Elizabeth Thompson Colleary's response to my review of Edward Hopper at the Tate misrepresents the facts (Letters, 2 September). All of Josephine Nivison's canvases, which she bequeathed to the Whitney in 1968, were discarded – either put in the trash or given to local hospitals with no strings attached. They were not loaned, as Colleary claims, and none can be traced at any of the hospitals today. The works bequeathed by Nivison now at the Whitney survived only because they were accidentally identified as by her husband, or overlooked and therefore not discarded, and almost all of these are on paper. I am not aware that the Whitney has accessioned for its permanent collection any work by Nivison, although a recent bequest by her friend, the artist Felicia Meyer Marsh, includes some of Nivison's small oil paintings.
City University of New York