Sunday, July 29, 2007

Thoughts on Edward Hopper and Marriage



I had the rare (for me) opportunity to go to the MFA last Friday, and saw the Edward Hopper exhibit there. Beautiful work, but very sad.

This picture (above) is a good example of his work (Room in Brooklyn, 1932). While it is beautiful, there is a sadness, an aloneness to the woman that you see in many of his paintings. Even when there are two people, they seem solitary, as if they cannot reach out to each other.

As I browsed the gift shop after finishing the show, I came upon a book called "Art and the Crisis of Marriage: Edward Hopper and Georgia O'Keefe" by Vivien Green Fryd. While the exhibit commentary mentioned that Hopper's wife Jo was also an artist, and that she posed for him, I was somewhat shocked to learn that Hopper's marriage was actually very rocky, even abusive. That perhaps explains why so many of his paintings depict people who seem very alone.

Even more interesting, however, was Fryd's description of the time period right after World War I. She states: "Indeed, in the period between the two world wars, many white middle-class Americans considered marriage and the family instiutions in crisis." So interesting! And even MORE interesting is that the reasons for this crisis were: women in the work force, birth control, divorce... Sounds familiar, doesn't it? It amazes me to learn that marriage was considered "in crisis" 80 or 90 years ago! Today, we have such glowing (and obviously, false) "memories" of how marriage and family life "used to be" before the 1960s and all the "radical" change of that time. Now it turns out... it wasn't so great before, either!

Somehow I find this very comforting. The idea that the struggles that I confront today as a woman -- meaningful work, raising a child, partnering with a husband -- are issues that have been around for a while. For a long while. So perhaps it isn't so strange that we haven't found the answers yet....

1 comment:

Your Jewish Mother said...

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