New York City's rapid changes can feel dizzying at times, a feeling Edward Hopper captured decades ago in his paintings chronicling the developing city.
With those paintings on view in a landmark exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art, the museum has now launched a digital map plotting 20 NYC locations Hopper painted alongside contemporary photos of the sites. While some places Hopper painted haven’t changed much (like the regal Queensboro Bridge), other places have vanished completely (like the lavish Sheridan Theater Hopper painted in 1937).
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The new map, built through an easy-to-navigate Google Maps platform, is intended to inspire curiosity, just like the exhibit itself. While some views have stayed the same, many have changed so significantly it's mind-bending. Click on each black dot on the map to see more.
"One of my hopes is that visitors walk out of the exhibition with a newfound curiosity for the city around them, and perhaps an openness to those Hopper moments that can surprise and delight in the most unexpected ways, in the most ordinary places. Hopper had his New York, and we all have our own distinctive New Yorks, forged through daily experiences, infused with memories, and built on the histories of the city before us. And there's always so much more to explore, if we remember to look," Kim Conaty, the exhibit's curator said in a press release.
We all have our own distinctive New Yorks, forged through daily experiences, infused with memories, and built on the histories of the city before us.
"Edward Hopper’s New York" features 200 Hopper artworks, ranging from the rarely seen to the iconic. This show at The Whitney is the first comprehensive look at Hopper’s relationship with NYC. Of those 200 pieces, museum staff selected 20 for the digital map. When possible, the map presents a painting next to a present-day picture of the location taken from almost the same perspective.
“The map is a way of merging Hopper’s view of NY with our current view, and encouraging visitors to explore their city in new ways, much like Hopper did,” the museum stated in a press release.
On the map
The highest concentration of points on the map clusters around Greenwich Village, the neighborhood where Hopper spent the majority of his life. After growing up in Nyack, Hopper lived in and worked in a top-floor apartment at 3 Washington Square North in Greenwich Village from 1913 until his death in 1967.
From the roof of that building, he painted five watercolors revealing how attuned he was to the subtleties of the ever-changing city, brushstrokes documenting detailed cornices and the sun shadowing chimneys. He also painted the nearby Washington Square Park as seen from his window. The map features each of those works.
That very building became the site of real estate conflict as the Hopper family fought to save their home amid development projects. Eventually, they prevailed in saving the building, and his studio is still preserved today. The Whitney’s archives now house the residence’s extensive collection of personal items, such as letters and notebooks, and many of those items are on view as part of the exhibition.
During Hopper's era, skyscrapers soared to unprecedented heights and construction boomed across the five boroughs, but the artist intentionally avoided the famous skyline and picturesque landmarks like the Empire State Building. Instead, he documented unsung utilitarian structures and out-of-the-way corners, places where new and old collided. Paintings including "Manhattan Bridge Loop," "Rooftops of Ferry Slip" and "Tugboat with Black Smokestack" tell the story of Hopper's New York, a place of contrasts, a place that's very different and yet very much the same.
See "Edward Hopper’s New York" at The Whitney Museum of American Art through March 5, 2023. Adult tickets cost $25. Also, check out several tours and special events held in connection with the exhibit.