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Edward Hopper: An Intimate Biography Paperback – April 10, 1998


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 695 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; Reprint edition (April 10, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520214757
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520214750
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,547,873 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This remarkable biography throws Hopper's art and life into sharp new perspective. Its focus is the laconic, introverted painter's stormy 43-year marriage to outspoken, gregarious Josephine ("Jo") Nivison, herself an artist. Levin, art professor at Baruch College and the City University of New York graduate school, draws extensively on Jo Hopper's intimate diaries, which she kept from the early 1930s until shortly before her death in 1968 (just 10 months after her husband died). Through diary entries, we learn that Hopper ridiculed, degraded and occasionally beat or bruised his wife, that he refused to let her drive their car, that he thwarted her career even as she devotedly helped him find subjects to paint. Nevertheless, as his model, intellectual peer and fellow artist, she stimulated his creativity, and, according to Levin, they became partners and conspirators in a domestic drama of deep attraction and violent opposition that fed his disquieting vision of modern life. Illustrated throughout with photographs as well as scores of reproductions of both Hoppers' paintings and drawings.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

Hopper's cool portrayals of American life transcend photographic realism and, like the oft-reproduced and -parodied "Nighthawks," have become icons of despair and a remote hope. This thorough work is by necessity a dual biography of Hopper and Josephine Nivison Hopper, the artist's wife of nearly 50 years. By relying on the diaries and letters of Jo, Levin has depicted the antagonistic symbiosis of the couple's marriage. Jo Hopper was an untiring?though not uncomplaining?advocate of her husband's art and the female model for the characters in most of his great works. Hopper is depicted as a misogynist who takes every opportunity to thwart his wife's already frustrated?though not wholly unsuccessful?painting career. Living up to the "intimate" of the subtitle, Levin's biography has taken advantage of her sources to create a detailed and monumental ledger of the genesis and creation of Hopper's modern masterpieces. Levin, the author of numerous works on Hopper (including the recent Edward Hopper: A Catalogue Raisonne, Norton, 1995), has carefully balanced the artistic and personal lives of the Hoppers. Recommended for all art and biography collections.?Martin R. Kalfatovic, Smithsonian Inst. Libs., Washington, D.C.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 12, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Gail Levin, the curator of Hopper's works at the Whitney Museum in New York City, had the exclusive privilege of Josephine (Mrs.) Hopper's journals that extend from the 1920s to the 1960s. Jo was an artist herself and her frustrations are paralled with Edward's successes. Maybe too much of the book is about poor Mrs. Hopper and her unsuportive Husband, but Levin crafts the history so well that I didn't hold it against her. Each of the major oil paintings are covered from a making-of perspective which I found illuminating. I picked the book up originally just to glance through it, but I ultimately read the whole thing.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By bookfan on December 28, 2002
Format: Paperback
Gail Levin's book -Edward Hopper: an Intimate Biography- is about the life of a famous artist, Edward Hopper, as well as that of an obscure artist, Josephine Hopper (the former Josephine Nivison). Mrs. Hopper's detailed diaries, kept up faithfully for decades, are a major source of information for Levin's book. Since this necessarily puts the perspective of the book heavily on Jo's side of the story, no one should consider this one-stop shopping for finding out what made Edward Hopper tick. The Hoppers were a two completely opposite personalities who both complemented and aggravated each other. What I most like about Levin's book is that probably no one else has ever been in Jo Hopper's corner before Levin. Jo usually comes off as the stereotypical shrewish wife who dominated her poor henpecked husband. What a different picture is presented in this book! Instead, their marriage was much more complex, and the love/hate dynamics never seem to have leveled off during the many years they were together. Their story defies my own stereotypcial notion that as people grow old, their emotions level off and they are like two old bookends. Not with these two! I also enjoyed finding out that Edward Hopper was a Bette Davis fan, that he liked Jo to wear her hair down, that Jo's idea of cooking was opening up cans, and that Hopper had to haul buckets of coal up from the basement to feed the coal stove that heated their studio/living quarters. Much of these intimate details are provided courtesy of Jo's diaries, which served as an outlet and a refuge from her stolid husband. Perhaps best of all is the theatricality and eroticism suggested by Jo's descriptions of how they worked together as she posed for many of his paintings. In one of Edward Hopper's last paintings, Two Comedians, he portrays two shy actors taking a little bow: a loving tribute to their long and histrionic collaboration together, in life and in art.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Christopher Waldrop on January 3, 2001
Format: Paperback
Gail Levin's biography is a thorough review of Edward Hopper's life and work, spanning his early childhood, his struggles as an artist paying the bills by illustrating for magazines, his success, and his consistently remarkable artistic output. The surprise for me came from the revelation that his wife Jo, usually a marginal and minor figure, was a remarkable woman and an artist herself. Although one is tempted to wonder how her career would have gone if she hadn't married Hopper, Levin avoids sensationalistic speculation and, aside from occasional comments, sticks strictly to the facts.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Ted Yao on March 1, 2009
Format: Paperback
I won't dwell on the psychology of Hopper's relation with Jo, although much can be gained from his cartoons of her and her cat. No, what is interesting to me is her accounts of Hopper's methods. Specifically his attempt (ultimately highly successful) to find his own style and the detours he took through printmaking and watercoulours to reach his mature style. Nevin notices that Jo preferred vertical format and Edward horizontal format. I wonder why? Also that she posed for him but he never did for her. Given their lack of money for a model this is a highly practical reason for her lack of commercial success - her inability to create an inhabited scene, a significant drawback for an artist. This book tells more useful information than most biographies about technique. It is also interesting for me to read about the intense inertia he had about painting - that he went for months on end without painting anything - a problem I have too. This is an engaging book on many levels - for artists as well as art lovers.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Ward A. Campbell on August 28, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Do not be intimidated by this book's length. I am not an art buff, but have become interested in Hopper and plan to attend the upcoming exhibition of his work at the National Gallery of Art in DC this Fall.
I approached this book with trepidation, but found myself drawn into it. I read it compulsively to the finish. There is tremendous detail presented in a simple austere style. It tries to make Hopper's life speak for itself. Thus, the book is a work of art about it's subject--a Hopper.
My only caveat is that you must also have a separate copy of Hopper's works (or at least many of them) to consult. Surprisingly and I think mistakenly, the book does not include copes of the many of the paintings. However, if you are familiar with his work, this is no impediment.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By J. Remington on August 30, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Levin has titled her excellent biography of Edward Hopper most appropriately. The sheer volume of research she has completed in drawing the portrait of the enigmatic man and the disfunctional relationship he often had with his talented wife Jo is stunning and impressive. Levin balances articulate and insightful descriptions and anaylisis of Hopper's work with details from the artists life. Levin makes a fine case that Jo Hopper was every bit the artist her more famous husband was and deserves a good deal of recognition in her own right. Levin also does an impressive job placing Hopper within the greater historical context as she relates Hopper to his influences and vice-versa. An excellent read on a man who was difficult to know, unless it was through his art.
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