Edward Hopper (1882–1967), _“What’s this? . . . Don’t, don’t—Hannah!”, 1925. Illustration for Emerson Low, “The Man Who Had Been Away,” Scribner’s Magazine 77 (May 1925). Fabricated chalk and charcoal on paper, 19 7/8 × 29 13/16 in. (50.5 × 75.7 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Josephine N. Hopper Bequest 70.1450
NARRATOR: This drawing depicts an attempted murder in progress. Hopper creates a convincing sense of action, and he captures the nocturnal lighting beautifully. But the drawing’s melodramatic tone has little of the mystery and none of the subtlety that Hopper is so famous for. It’s a commercial illustration, done for hire.
CARTERFOSTER: It’s an illustration for Scribner’s Magazine done in 1925. It would have been reproduced in the magazine in a kind of half-tone photographic reproduction process.
NARRATOR: Today Hopper is often seen as the quintessential American artist, and it’s difficult to imagine him struggling. But he wasn’t able to support himself as a painter until he was in his forties. He was very successful as an illustrator, but he hated the work. He preferred to invent his subjects rather than to have someone hand them to him—and he was mostly commissioned to illustrate sentimental pulp fiction that he disdained. But he was a very good illustrator, and he made a steady living at it.