Edward Hopper (United States, 1882–1967), Custom House, Portland, 1927, watercolor on paper, 14 x 20 inches. Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art. Gift of Robert W. Huntingon, 1946.232.
Edward Hopper (United States, 1882–1967), Captain Strout’s House, Portland Head, 1927, watercolor on paper, 14 x 20 inches. Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art. The Ella Gallup Sumner and Mary Catlin Sumner Collection Fund, 1928.3.
I was familiar with the Custom House building before seeing the painting. When I saw the painting, I recognized the building and it’s long railing with oval designs. During my week at ARTREK, we took the campers on a walk over to the Custom House in order to make a painting of it. We approached, held onto the railings and circled around the building. We had fun getting a good look at every angle. I imagined Edward Hopper doing the same thing, years ago. The building itself hasn’t changed much, but its surroundings are much different from the time Hopper painted the Custom House. I looked for the building that was in the background of the painting, but it does not exist today. During my time at the Custom House, I was sketching and I noticed the city around it. There were many people walking around the Old Port, which is always busy in the summer. Back at the Museum, while looking at the painting of the Custom House, I notice not a single person is painted into the scene. As I continue to look at the painting I notice signs of life in the windows. The window shades in the painting, some drawn, and some open, shows the viewer that people do exist. The artist Edward Hopper did not paint the front entrance of the Custom House, instead he chose to focus on the side of the building even with the streetlight obstructing the view. I think this angle gives the viewer the feeling they are really walking down the street and have come across the Custom House.
Captain Strout’s House, Portland Head Light is my favorite Edward Hopper painting in the Museum. The fact that the actual Light House isn’t the main focus is probably what catches my attention. Instead, the painting’s focus is on the house and this makes me wonder, “Who lives there?” Like the Custom House painting, not a single soul is in the scene, yet it has an essence of life. Maybe it’s the freshly mowed grass that lets us know people do inhabit the Light House!
I love this painting for its colors, the blue sky without a single cloud, and the strong sun casting shadows on the buildings—you really feel like you’re there…on site.
Yourspace, a three-week studio art and Museum summer internship program, provides six of Portland’s most talented young artists at Portland High School, Deering High School, and Casco Bay High School with access to the renowned works of art at Portland Museum of Art, experience with professional art educators, intensive art-making, and a paid internship to help prepare them for their futures. In week one, Yourspace interns developed special projects related to Museum exhibitions, collections, and education programs; including the new teen audio tour and blog posts. Week two consisted of assisting educators and teaching children in the Museum’s ARTREK summer camp program. In the third and final week, the interns were given their own studio in the Museum’s Community Studio. The Museum was their muse and part of their creative process, as they produced a body of artwork in response to this special environment.