But it's hard to see how learning about the location where he painted helps us apprehend his work. Being able to compare, say, Hopper's watercolor of Pemaquid Light to a recent photograph of the lighthouse adds very little, if anything, to the sum total of awareness of either one. Here we have a watercolor of a place mediated by a photograph of it, compared with a camera image of the same place, both mediated again by the biases inherent in one's monitor.
>> SLIDESHOW: "Edward Hopper's Maine" at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art <<
In both we are seeing the subjects, a lighthouse and a painting of a lighthouse, at more than one remove — the artist's rendering is transformed by the photograph of it, and the photograph of the lighthouse by the nature of digital photography and the photographer's choice of light and position, in this case similar light and slightly different position. We are no wiser for the experience. The museum is sending us on a conceptual wild-goose chase.
If you're an experienced Hopper hand, the Bowdoin show is a good place to learn more about how he got to be who he was. If you're not, you still have a lot to look forward to.
Ken Greenleaf can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.
Edward Hopper's Maine | Bowdoin College Museum of Art | Through October 16, 2011
: Museum And Gallery
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