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EDWARD HOPPER’S STUDIES
FOR PAINTINGS

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. 

Nighthawks, 1942

There are nineteen known drawings for Hopper’s most famous painting, all but two of which are in the Whitney’s collection. Hopper developed the composition in December of 1941 and January of 1942, when he finished the painting. We see his first ideas in small sketchbook sheets that were probably done from life while he was sitting in restaurants. Next he developed the diagonal space that defines the composition in a series of studies that grow increasingly more complex. Finally, Hopper posed for himself in a mirror and had his wife pose as well order to make figure studies that develop the poses of the painting’s famous protagonists. 

Edward Hopper (1882–1967), Study for Nighthawks, 1941 or 1942. Fabricated chalk on paper, 7 3/16 × 4 7/16 in. (18.3 × 11.3 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Josephine N. Hopper Bequest  70.188
Edward Hopper (1882–1967), Study for Nighthawks, 1941 or 1942. Fabricated chalk on paper, 7 1/4 × 4 7/16 in. (18.4 × 11.3 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Josephine N. Hopper Bequest  70.189
 
Edward Hopper (1882–1967), Study for Nighthawks, 1941 or 1942. Fabricated chalk on paper, 7 1/4 × 4 7/16 in. (18.4 × 11.3 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Josephine N. Hopper Bequest  70.186
Edward Hopper (1882–1967), Study for Nighthawks, 1941 or 1942. Fabricated chalk on paper, 7 1/4 × 4 7/16 in. (18.4 × 11.3 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Josephine N. Hopper Bequest  70.187
Edward Hopper (1882–1967), Study for Nighthawks, 1941 or 1942. Fabricated chalk on paper, 7 3/16 × 4 7/16 in. (18.3 × 11.3 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Josephine N. Hopper Bequest  70.190
Edward Hopper (1882–1967), Study for Nighthawks, 1941 or 1942. Fabricated chalk on paper, 7 3/16 × 4 7/16 in. (18.3 × 11.3 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Josephine N. Hopper Bequest  70.191
Edward Hopper (1882–1967), Study for Nighthawks, 1941 or 1942. Fabricated chalk on paper, 4 7/16 × 7 3/16 in. (11.3 × 18.3 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Josephine N. Hopper Bequest  70.192
Edward Hopper (1882–1967), Study for Nighthawks, 1941 or 1942. Fabricated chalk on paper, 8 1/2 × 10 15/16 in. (21.6 × 27.8 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Josephine N. Hopper Bequest  70.166a­–b
Edward Hopper (1882–1967), Study for Nighthawks (verso), 1941 or 1942. Fabricated chalk on paper, 8 7/16 × 11 in. (21.4 × 27.9 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Josephine N. Hopper Bequest  70.200a–b
Edward Hopper (1882–1967), Study for Nighthawks, 1941 or 1942. Fabricated chalk on paper, 8 1/2 × 11 in. (21.6 × 27.9 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Josephine N. Hopper Bequest  70.194a–b
Edward Hopper (1882–1967), Study for Nighthawks, 1941 or 1942. Fabricated chalk on paper, 8 1/2 × 11 1/16 in. (21.6 × 28.1 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Josephine N. Hopper Bequest  70.195
Edward Hopper (1882–1967), Study for Nighthawks, 1941 or 1942. Fabricated chalk on paper, 8 7/16 × 10 15/16 in. (21.4 × 27.8 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Josephine N. Hopper Bequest  70.193
Edward Hopper (1882–1967), Study for Nighthawks, 1941 or 1942. Fabricated chalk and charcoal on paper; 11 1/8 × 15 in. (28.3 × 38.1 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Purchase and gift of Josephine N. Hopper by exchange  2011.65
Edward Hopper (1882–1967), Study for Nighthawks, 1941 or 1942. Fabricated chalk and charcoal on paper, 15 1/16 × 11 1/16 in. (38.3 × 28.1 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Josephine N. Hopper Bequest  70.256
Edward Hopper (1882–1967), Study for Nighthawks, 1941 or 1942. Fabricated chalk on paper, 10 7/16 × 8 in. (26.5 × 20.3 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Josephine N. Hopper Bequest  70.255
Edward Hopper (1882–1967), Study for Nighthawks, 1941 or 1942. Fabricated chalk and charcoal on paper, 8 1/8 × 8 in. (20.6 × 20.3 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Josephine N. Hopper Bequest  70.253
Edward Hopper (1882–1967), Study for Nighthawks, 1941 or 1942. Fabricated chalk and charcoal on paper, 11 13/16 × 8 7/8 in. (30 × 22.5 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Josephine N. Hopper Bequest  70.254

See also

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Unless otherwise noted, all works by Edward Hopper are in the collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art. © Heirs of Josephine N. Hopper, licensed by the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; digital images © Whitney Museum of American Art, New York