The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) has announced the acquisition of Edward Hopper's Intermission (1963), among the artist's largest and most ambitious paintings, and one of the last significant Hopperworks remaining in private hands.
Intermission was acquired from Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco, in part through gifts from the Fisher and Schwab families.
In the last years of his life, Hopper, who was never prolific, made only two complete works each year—one in the spring and one in the fall. Intermission was painted in March and April of 1963, and was one of the last four paintings that Hopper finished before his death in 1967.
Measuring 40 by 60 inches, it is among his largest paintings and evokes the artist's signature dramatic cropping of cinematic camera angles, and the high-keyed lighting of stagecraft, both of which add an emotive and artificial sensation to his tightly controlled, understated narrative.
Intermission is an iconic work, exemplary of Hopper's late period and style, and establishes him as a contemporary master beyond his historical achievements of the early twentieth century," says Gary Garrels, SFMOMA Elise S. Haas Senior Curator of Painting and Sculpture.
"The painting is also significant in relation to SFMOMA's deep holdings of work by artists of the Bay Area Figurative tradition, such as Robert Bechtle, Richard Diebenkorn, and Wayne Thiebaud, as well as photographers strongly represented in the collection like William Eggleston, Walker Evans, Robert Frank, and Stephen Shore, who share affinities with Hopper."
Hopper came up with the idea for Intermission while he was watching a movie, and his wife, Josephine Hopper, arranged for him to work on the painting in an empty theater. However, Hopper decided to complete Intermission at his home and studio in New York City.
A surviving preparatory sketch for the painting reveals that he considered including another figure in the third row. In an interview he revealed, "There's half another person in the picture." The final composition depicts a solitary woman in a theater, sitting alone in the first row of a side aisle. Seemingly waiting for others to return from intermission, she appears lost in thought, staring off into the distance as she sits contently in a comfortable-looking dark green theater seat with her ankles crossed.
Sharply cropped horizontally, the composition includes only the front edge of the stage and a small portion of a yellow curtain. The main focus is on the self-contained figure sitting alone among empty seats.
Perfectly exemplifying one of Hopper's signature subjects, Intermission also reveals the artist's use of lighting and tonalities to convey a cool yet intimate portrait of isolation. Underneath a shadow that follows the molding along the wall, the figure sits with her face partially highlighted by the falling light. Hopper was known to thin his paints in his later works—here the green armchairs of the auditorium fade from bright green to a bluish grey, giving them a sketchlike, landscape quality. Overall, the painting is luminous with glowing color and a highly abstract background, which is a field of loose brushwork that gives the painting an extremely contemporary style and feel.
Almost immediately after Hopper completed the canvas, it was recognized as one of his best works and was included in his second retrospective at the Whitney Museum of Art the following year in 1964 (the Whitney's first retrospective of Hopper's work was in 1950). Intermission was also included in the artist's third Whitney retrospective, which traveled to SFMOMA in 1982 in its original Van Ness location. Since the mid-1990s, Intermission has been in a private West Coast collection and most recently was included in a Hopper retrospective organized by the Tate Modern in 2004.
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
151 Third Street
San Francisco, CA 94103
www.sfmoma.org or call 415.357.4000 for more information.