In the latest issue:

Real Men Go to Tehran

Adam Shatz

What Trump doesn’t know about Iran

Patrick Cockburn

Kaiser Karl V

Thomas Penn

The Hostile Environment

Catherine Hall

Social Mobilities

Adam Swift

Short Cuts: So much for England

Tariq Ali

What the jihadis left behind

Nelly Lahoud

Ray Strachey

Francesca Wade

C.J. Sansom

Malcolm Gaskill

At the British Museum: ‘Troy: Myth and Reality’

James Davidson

Poem: ‘The Lion Tree’

Jamie McKendrick

SurrogacyTM

Jenny Turner

Boys in Motion

Nicholas Penny

Jia Tolentino

Lauren Oyler

Diary: What really happened in Yancheng?

Long Ling

Short Cuts: Harry Goes Rogue

Jonathan Parry

The Loneliness ThingPeter Campbell
Close

Terms and Conditions

These terms and conditions of use refer to the London Review of Books and the London Review Bookshop website (www.lrb.co.uk — hereafter ‘LRB Website’). These terms and conditions apply to all users of the LRB Website ("you"), including individual subscribers to the print edition of the LRB who wish to take advantage of our free 'subscriber only' access to archived material ("individual users") and users who are authorised to access the LRB Website by subscribing institutions ("institutional users").

Each time you use the LRB Website you signify your acceptance of these terms and conditions. If you do not agree, or are not comfortable with any part of this document, your only remedy is not to use the LRB Website.


  1. By registering for access to the LRB Website and/or entering the LRB Website by whatever route of access, you agree to be bound by the terms and conditions currently prevailing.
  2. The London Review of Books ("LRB") reserves the right to change these terms and conditions at any time and you should check for any alterations regularly. Continued usage of the LRB Website subsequent to a change in the terms and conditions constitutes acceptance of the current terms and conditions.
  3. The terms and conditions of any subscription agreements which educational and other institutions have entered into with the LRB apply in addition to these terms and conditions.
  4. You undertake to indemnify the LRB fully for all losses damages and costs incurred as a result of your breaching these terms and conditions.
  5. The information you supply on registration to the LRB Website shall be accurate and complete. You will notify the LRB promptly of any changes of relevant details by emailing the registrar. You will not assist a non-registered person to gain access to the LRB Website by supplying them with your password. In the event that the LRB considers that you have breached the requirements governing registration, that you are in breach of these terms and conditions or that your or your institution's subscription to the LRB lapses, your registration to the LRB Website will be terminated.
  6. Each individual subscriber to the LRB (whether a person or organisation) is entitled to the registration of one person to use the 'subscriber only' content on the web site. This user is an 'individual user'.
  7. The London Review of Books operates a ‘no questions asked’ cancellation policy in accordance with UK legislation. Please contact us to cancel your subscription and receive a full refund for the cost of all unposted issues.
  8. Use of the 'subscriber only' content on the LRB Website is strictly for the personal use of each individual user who may read the content on the screen, download, store or print single copies for their own personal private non-commercial use only, and is not to be made available to or used by any other person for any purpose.
  9. Each institution which subscribes to the LRB is entitled to grant access to persons to register on and use the 'subscriber only' content on the web site under the terms and conditions of its subscription agreement with the LRB. These users are 'institutional users'.
  10. Each institutional user of the LRB may access and search the LRB database and view its entire contents, and may also reproduce insubstantial extracts from individual articles or other works in the database to which their institution's subscription provides access, including in academic assignments and theses, online and/or in print. All quotations must be credited to the author and the LRB. Institutional users are not permitted to reproduce any entire article or other work, or to make any commercial use of any LRB material (including sale, licensing or publication) without the LRB's prior written permission. Institutions may notify institutional users of any additional or different conditions of use which they have agreed with the LRB.
  11. Users may use any one computer to access the LRB web site 'subscriber only' content at any time, so long as that connection does not allow any other computer, networked or otherwise connected, to access 'subscriber only' content.
  12. The LRB Website and its contents are protected by copyright and other intellectual property rights. You acknowledge that all intellectual property rights including copyright in the LRB Website and its contents belong to or have been licensed to the LRB or are otherwise used by the LRB as permitted by applicable law.
  13. All intellectual property rights in articles, reviews and essays originally published in the print edition of the LRB and subsequently included on the LRB Website belong to or have been licensed to the LRB. This material is made available to you for use as set out in paragraph 8 (if you are an individual user) or paragraph 10 (if you are an institutional user) only. Save for such permitted use, you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, post, reproduce, translate or adapt such material in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the LRB. To obtain such permission and the terms and conditions applying, contact the Rights and Permissions department.
  14. All intellectual property rights in images on the LRB Website are owned by the LRB except where another copyright holder is specifically attributed or credited. Save for such material taken for permitted use set out above, you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, post, reproduce, translate or adapt LRB’s images in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the LRB. To obtain such permission and the terms and conditions applying, contact the Rights and Permissions department. Where another copyright holder is specifically attributed or credited you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, reproduce or translate such images in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the copyright holder. The LRB will not undertake to supply contact details of any attributed or credited copyright holder.
  15. The LRB Website is provided on an 'as is' basis and the LRB gives no warranty that the LRB Website will be accessible by any particular browser, operating system or device.
  16. The LRB makes no express or implied representation and gives no warranty of any kind in relation to any content available on the LRB Website including as to the accuracy or reliability of any information either in its articles, essays and reviews or in the letters printed in its letter page or material supplied by third parties. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability of any kind (including liability for any losses, damages or costs) arising from the publication of any materials on the LRB Website or incurred as a consequence of using or relying on such materials.
  17. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability of any kind (including liability for any losses, damages or costs) for any legal or other consequences (including infringement of third party rights) of any links made to the LRB Website.
  18. The LRB is not responsible for the content of any material you encounter after leaving the LRB Website site via a link in it or otherwise. The LRB gives no warranty as to the accuracy or reliability of any such material and to the fullest extent permitted by law excludes all liability that may arise in respect of or as a consequence of using or relying on such material.
  19. This site may be used only for lawful purposes and in a manner which does not infringe the rights of, or restrict the use and enjoyment of the site by, any third party. In the event of a chat room, message board, forum and/or news group being set up on the LRB Website, the LRB will not undertake to monitor any material supplied and will give no warranty as to its accuracy, reliability, originality or decency. By posting any material you agree that you are solely responsible for ensuring that it is accurate and not obscene, defamatory, plagiarised or in breach of copyright, confidentiality or any other right of any person, and you undertake to indemnify the LRB against all claims, losses, damages and costs incurred in consequence of your posting of such material. The LRB will reserve the right to remove any such material posted at any time and without notice or explanation. The LRB will reserve the right to disclose the provenance of such material, republish it in any form it deems fit or edit or censor it. The LRB will reserve the right to terminate the registration of any person it considers to abuse access to any chat room, message board, forum or news group provided by the LRB.
  20. Any e-mail services supplied via the LRB Website are subject to these terms and conditions.
  21. You will not knowingly transmit any virus, malware, trojan or other harmful matter to the LRB Website. The LRB gives no warranty that the LRB Website is free from contaminating matter, viruses or other malicious software and to the fullest extent permitted by law disclaims all liability of any kind including liability for any damages, losses or costs resulting from damage to your computer or other property arising from access to the LRB Website, use of it or downloading material from it.
  22. The LRB does not warrant that the use of the LRB Website will be uninterrupted, and disclaims all liability to the fullest extent permitted by law for any damages, losses or costs incurred as a result of access to the LRB Website being interrupted, modified or discontinued.
  23. The LRB Website contains advertisements and promotional links to websites and other resources operated by third parties. While we would never knowingly link to a site which we believed to be trading in bad faith, the LRB makes no express or implied representations or warranties of any kind in respect of any third party websites or resources or their contents, and we take no responsibility for the content, privacy practices, goods or services offered by these websites and resources. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability for any damages or losses arising from access to such websites and resources. Any transaction effected with such a third party contacted via the LRB Website are subject to the terms and conditions imposed by the third party involved and the LRB accepts no responsibility or liability resulting from such transactions.
  24. The LRB disclaims liability to the fullest extent permitted by law for any damages, losses or costs incurred for unauthorised access or alterations of transmissions or data by third parties as consequence of visit to the LRB Website.
  25. While 'subscriber only' content on the LRB Website is currently provided free to subscribers to the print edition of the LRB, the LRB reserves the right to impose a charge for access to some or all areas of the LRB Website without notice.
  26. These terms and conditions are governed by and will be interpreted in accordance with English law and any disputes relating to these terms and conditions will be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales.
  27. The various provisions of these terms and conditions are severable and if any provision is held to be invalid or unenforceable by any court of competent jurisdiction then such invalidity or unenforceability shall not affect the remaining provisions.
  28. If these terms and conditions are not accepted in full, use of the LRB Website must be terminated immediately.
Close
Nature and Culture 
by Barbara Novak.
Thames and Hudson, 323 pp., £16, August 1980, 0 500 01245 8
Show More
Edward Hopper: The Complete Prints 
by Gail Levin.
Norton, 128 pp., £9.95, April 1980, 0 393 01275 1
Show More
Edward Hopper as illustrator 
by Gail Levin.
Norton, 288 pp., £15.95, April 1980, 0 393 01243 3
Show More
Show More

When Frederic Church’s lost painting ‘The Icebergs’ was found to be in the possession of a school in England, newspapers here had to explain that Church was a 19th-century American painter. The picture made 2½ million dollars at auction in New York: a reminder that provincial values – in a number of senses of those words – can still surprise.

‘The Americans,’ Professor Novak writes, ‘participated in the great landscape adventure’ of the 19th century ‘with an art that grew out of its singular relation to American nature, to the artistic traditions of Europe, and to its own developing traditions.’ The benefits and problems of this ‘singular relation’ characterise a whole tradition of American realism which includes Eakins, Homer and Hopper. Worthington Whittredge, writing of his return to America in the 1860s, says:

It was impossible for me to shut out from my eyes the works of the great landscape painters I had seen in Europe, while I knew well enough that if I was to succeed I must produce something new which might claim to be inspired by my home surroundings. I was in despair ... I think I can say I was not the first or the only painter of our country who has returned after a long visit abroad and encountered the same difficulty in tackling home subjects.

He was certainly not the last. Edward Hopper made only three trips to Europe – in 1906, 1909 and 1910. He said that when he returned from France, America ‘seemed a chaos of ugliness’, and later that ‘it seemed awfully raw here when I got back. It took me ten years to get over Europe.’ Whittredge found ‘the forest a mass of decaying logs and tangled brush wood, no peasants to pick up every vestige of fallen sticks’, while Hopper wrote of ‘our native architecture with its hideous beauty’ and of houses ‘shouldering one another along interminable streets that taper off into swamps or dump heaps’. These struggles to accommodate what Henry James called ‘our crude and silent past, our garish climate, our deafening present’ to European traditions resulted in a realist tradition which may turn out to be America’s greatest contribution to 19th and 20th-century painting.

Professor Novak’s book is fascinating because she sets about showing how the work of the prolific and confident landscape painters of the mid-1800s can be related to contemporary religious, philosophical and scientific debates and enthusiasms. She describes Church’s library as ‘an extraordinary testament of the artist’s continued efforts to accommodate post-Darwinian science with religion’. In Europe his time would, most likely, have been taken up with perception and its relation to art, rather than with geology and its relation to God.

Professor Novak distinguishes two major categories of mid-19th-century American landscape painting in her second chapter – ‘Grand Opera and the Still Small Voice’. The operatic pictures (Bierstadt’s of the Rocky Mountains, Church’s of the Andes, Cole’s sequence ‘The Course of Empire’, for instance) please her less than the ‘luminist’ paintings of Heade and Fitz Hugh Lane – those of ‘the still small voice’. She writes of the latter (they resemble the paintings of Caspar David Friedrich) that they ‘brought the 19th century as close as it could come to silence and the void.’ Hopper, whose paintings are ‘silent’ in a similar way, wrote rather tetchily that ‘the loneliness thing is overdone. It formulates something you don’t want formulated’ Which in its turn sums up very well the difficulty of writing about works which are, in Professor Novak’s words ‘classic rather than baroque, contained rather than expansive ... private not public’.

The baroque paintings were public pictures – successors to panoramas such as Henry Lewis’s ‘Mammoth Panorama of the Mississippi River’, painted on 45,000 square feet of canvas, the unrolling of which, to an accompaniment of music and commentary, took several hours. Professor Novak shows how, in ‘operatic’ landscapes, painters quite consciously strove to present American nature as an expression of divine providence. Painters served the cause of religion, for God had spoken his promise to a chosen and blessed people through the sublimity of nature. They served the cause of patriotism by displaying the magnificence of the newly-opened West. And very soon they were showing, with a mixture of optimism and distress, tree stumps and railways that marked the retreat of that wilderness.

The ‘operatic’ landscape paintings had forerunners in the panoramas – and successors in the movies, above all in Westerns. Yet while the buttes and prairies look back to Bierstadt, the heavily shadowed noon-day buildings, the empty streets and the railway, are the province of the painters of urban America – of whom Hopper was one of the greatest. He was not a Westerner – he spent his summers in New England and his winters in New York – but there is something laconic about his paintings and his utterances that makes it easy to think of him in that context. ‘If you could say it in words there would be no need to paint,’ he said, and his wife, who talked a lot, complained that ‘sometimes talking with Eddie is just like dropping a stone in a well, except it doesn’t thump when it hits the bottom.’ His career, too, moved slowly and purposefully. He was born in 1882, but it was 1924 before he was able to make a living from painting. The first fifteen years or so of his professional life were spent making money as an illustrator and a reputation as an etcher. These aspects of his work are covered by Gail Levin’s two books – which are, one discovers, overtures to a catalogue raisonnée.

He did not like illustrating – ‘I was always interested in architecture, but the editors wanted people waving their arms’ – and had no great opinion of the illustrations he produced: ‘I was a rotten illustrator, or mediocre anyway.’ He did not want to draw people ‘grimacing and posturing. Maybe I am not very human. What I wanted to do was to paint the sunlight on the side of a house.’ There is some overlap of subject-matter between his commercial and his serious work – hotels, offices, ships and trains – but it seems pretty accidental, and on the whole one agrees with Hopper that the illustrations are irrelevant to his work as a painter and etcher. Hopper is a poet of the banal – the closer he got to meeting his editors’ demands the further he was from his own goals. It is not just a question of using figures: his paintings too are inhabited – but when Hopper said ‘the loneliness thing’ had been overdone he was reminding one that it is not the figures which carry the feeling, but the powerfully realised settings. How they do it can in part be explained. He was a master of simplification and design, and empty streets, dim hotel lobbies and late-night cafés are melancholy places. But one must also respect his feeling that there is an unanalysable element: ‘Why I select certain subjects rather than others I do not exactly know, unless it is that I believe them to be the best mediums for a synthesis of my inner experience.’

In the etchings Hopper announced most of the themes that were to go on serving him: buildings, sailboats, people in the city, railways, nudes in what seem to be bedrooms or hotel rooms. As with Homer, there is a sense of the style of the French 19th century (of Manet, say, or Degas) made stronger and coarser to deal with American experience. Having tried other materials, Hopper found he liked his etchings printed very black on very white paper. It seems appropriate.

The first paintings to bring Hopper wide recognition were watercolours of New England houses. Looking at these now, one is pleased by the dash with which he handled the medium – it seems to give a rather soft subject bite. It is interesting to read, though, in Lloyd Goodrich’s book on Hopper, that when they were first shown the general reaction from critics and public was that they were satire. ‘We were not,’ he writes, ‘used to seeing such commonplace, and to some of us ugly, material used in art.’

Hopper’s later paintings (the oils were done in the studio, not, like the watercolours, from life) deal with less tractable material than Victorian Gothic buildings. He was to go on turning people’s eyes towards the world they lived in, as though both prettiness and ugliness were less important than finding out what things are really like.

Europe today is not the wonderfully patinated antique Americans could still find in the 19th century. The Hopper show (which opens at the Hayward Gallery on 11 February) may lead other painters to make pictures of our own muddled and fractured environment which start from, and reconcile us to, the way it is.

Send Letters To:

The Editor
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

letters@lrb.co.uk

Please include name, address, and a telephone number.

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.