Slike po kojima prepoznajemo stvaralaštvo Edvarda Hopera deo su njegove znatno kasnije faze. Za dela koja su u fokusu ovog predstavljanja ne bismo odmah mogli reći da pripadaju njegovom opusu, ali su za nas bitna kao adekvatno predočen nagoveštaj kasnijih motiva koji će se pojavljivati u njegovom slikarstvu. Pre nego što se vratio u Ameriku i posvetio slikanju praznih enterijera – iz neočekivanog ugla voajeristički opsesivnih prikaza ljudskih figura koje u praznim sobama sede, razmišljaju ili se svalače – Edvard Hoper je, kao i svaki umetnik u mladosti, predočavao sebe, a samim tim, formirao nacrte i za kasnija dela. Doza melanholičnog i usamljenog (sugerisana upotrebom plave i sive boje), ličnog, skoro ispovednog i autobiografskog naročito je prisutna na ranim platnima. Tonovi i boje koji dominiraju početnom fazom Hoperovog opusa tamnije su i pod uticajem impresionističkog slikarstva, naročito načina na koji su impresionistički slikari otkrivali potez ruke oku posmatrača. Grube, nedefinisane konture, oblici u naznakama, atmosfera oformljena više bojom nego prikazanim, neke su od odlika slika nastalih u periodu Hoperovog boravka u Parizu sredinom prve decenije 20. veka.
Hopper made his first trip to Paris in the autumn of 1906, aged 24, having finished art school the previous spring. He described his impressions in a letter home: ‘The roofs are all of the Mansard type and either of grey slate or zinc. On a day that’s overcast, this same blue-grey permeates everything.’ But it wasn’t the emerging contemporary avant-garde who drew his attention. ‘Whom did I meet? Nobody,’ he later admitted. ‘I’d heard of Gertrude Stein, but I don’t remember having heard of Picasso at all.’ Instead, among French painters, he was inspired by earlier generations, Manet, Degas, Pissaro, Sisley, Monet and Cézanne.
Two paintings in this room, in particular, foreshadow the preoccupations to come. One, Solitary Figure in a Theatre, made while still at art school, depicts a shadowy theatre-goer before an empty stage. Hopper was fascinated by theatre and was also an avid film goer, a sense of dramatic anticipation permeates his work. Stairway at 48 rue de Lille, shows the interior stairway leading to the flat where Hopper boarded on a visit to Paris. The tight cropping and deep shadows are almost cinematic, giving the work an air of expectancy, as though someone is about to enter or has just exited the frame.*
While in Europe, Hopper spent much of his time at the theatre, attending operas and visiting art galleries. He described Rembrandt’s painting ‘Night Watch’ as „the most wonderful thing of his I have seen“ with its moody atmosphere and strong contrast between light and dark perhaps contributing to Hopper’s decision to return to the darker color palette he was more comfortable with.
As one of Hopper’s earliest works, Stairway at 48 rue de Lille, Paris (1906) uses a far darker palette than his later, mature style. Even at this early stage in his career, Hopper uses an unusual composition to create a sense of mystery – a technique he would employ throughout his lifetime. From the door at the top of the picture, the bold diagonal of the stairs draws the viewer’s attention down, leading around the corner and to the out-of-sight landing on the floor below. The question of what lies beyond the stairs will remain forever elusive… *