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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Peintures americaines Hopper et Gorky

by Georges Férou

American Paintings by Hopper and Gorky

Translated Sunday 9 September 2007, by Helen Robertshaw

Edward Hopper, collectif, Flammarion, 200 pages, 45 Euros.

Arshile Gorky, hommage, Centre Pompidou collection, 116 pages,
19.90 Euros.

If we had to compare Edward Hopper to a writer of the same period, it would have to be John Dos Passos. Just like him, Hopper celebrated the most banal aspects of city life. He ‘poeticised’ the streets of New York, the dreary apartments and the most unappealing public places. He poeticised them, but he didn’t embellish them. He endowed them with a soul, a sense of mystery, an intensity and many unspoken secrets. He enjoyed painting solitary women in their shabby rooms (11 A.M. [1928], Room in Brooklyn [1932] and Hotel Room [1951]), in cafes (Automat, [1929]), in restaurants (Chop Suey [1929] and Tables for Ladies [1930]) and in the cinema (New York Movies). And this vision of a world which derives its beauty, its grace and desire from all that is desolate, banal and mediocre about it, constitutes a strange and fascinating paradox. Both in his paintings of cities by night and in his country landscapes by day, by the sea, with its mysterious lighthouses and houses built in the middle of nowhere, Hopper created an image of a raw and uncompromising reality immortalised in painting. It’s a very human transcendence, and a pure vision which washes away all the impurity of modernity.

Manoug Adoian was born in a small village in Armenia in 1904. After the dramatic events of World War 1, he travelled to America to join his parents. He studied at the New York School of Design in Boston. He changed his name to Gorky when he painted his first self-portrait. After a figurative period, he followed the example of Picasso, at the beginning of the 1930s, producing, among other pieces, a superb work in Chinese ink, entitled Night, which is enigmatic and nostalgic. He was then influenced by another artist, Mirò, and his work had a profound effect upon Gorky’s development as an artist: he almost totally abandoned any notion of figuration. Then his career really began to flourish. Breton noticed him and praised his work in 1945, the year in which he painted his Diary of a Seducer. He went on to establish himself as one of the great artists of the new school of New York. But he died prematurely in 1948. This has meant that, in France, we tend to overlook his achievements or, instead, we situate him on the fringes of the great adventure of abstract expressionism. If you missed the exhibition, you can discover his work for yourself by looking at the beautiful catalogue published by the Centre Pompidou.


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