Edward Hopper was an incredibly gifted draftsman, though he never intended his studies to be seen as works of art—he used them to try out ideas and refine content for paintings. Featured here are suites of drawn studies in the Whitney’s collection for some of Hopper’s most famous oils. The drawings show two distinct ways of working: in his words, drawing “from the fact” (painting from direct observation), and “improvising” (working from imagination). Taken together, the drawings and paintings reveal how Hopper synthesized precisely observed details or views into atmospheric scenes, transforming the mundane into the poetic.
Based on knowledge of Hopper’s working methods, we can usually discern a general sequence among related sheets, reflected here in the order in which the works appear.
Hopper based Early Sunday Morning on a mundane 1878 building which stood on the west side of New York City’s Seventh Avenue between 15th and 16th Streets. He no doubt walked by it often as it was near his Washington Square apartment. Two fire hydrants stood on a nearby corner—one short and squat, as in the painting, the other longer and taller, as in the one known study for Early Sunday Morning. Historic photographs allow us to understand the urban context for the building as well as the changes Hopper made in his own imagined depiction of the structure.