Edward Hopper, American visual artist, was born 141 years ago today
Edward Hopper in his Greenwich Village studio, 1938
Edward Hopper was born 141 years ago today.
A prominent American realist painter and printmaker, Hopper was equally proficient as a watercolorist and printmaker in etching. Both in his urban and rural scenes, his spare and finely calculated renderings reflected his personal vision of modern American life.
Born in upper Nyack, New York, a yacht-building center on the Hudson River, Hopper was one of two children of a comfortably well-off, middle-class family. His birthplace and boyhood home were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2000.
Today the family home is the Edward Hopper House Art Center. It serves as a non-profit community cultural center featuring exhibitions, workshops, lectures, performances and special events.
Hopper was a good student in grade school and showed talent in drawing at age five. He had a love of French and Russian culture. Hopper’s parents encouraged his art and kept him amply supplied with materials, instructional magazines and illustrated books.
By his teens, he was working in pen-and-ink, charcoal, watercolor and oil — drawing from nature as well as making political cartoons. In 1895, he created his first signed oil painting, Rowboat in Rocky Cove. It showed his early interest in nautical subjects.
In his early self-portraits, Hopper tended to represent himself as skinny, ungraceful and homely. Though a tall and quiet teenager, his prankish sense of humor found an outlet in his art, sometimes in depictions of immigrants or of women dominating men in comic situations. Later in life, he depicted mostly women as figures in his paintings.
In high school, he dreamed of being a naval architect, but after graduation he declared his intention to follow an art career. Hopper’s parents insisted that he study commercial art to have a reliable means of income.
In developing his self-image and individualistic philosophy of life, Hopper was influenced by the writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson. He later said, “I admire him greatly…I read him over and over again.”
Hopper began art studies with a correspondence course in 1899. Soon, however, he transferred to the New York Institute of Art and Design. There he studied for six years, with teachers, including William Merritt Chase, who instructed him in oil painting.
Early on, Hopper modeled his style after Chase and French masters Édouard Manet and Edgar Degas. Sketching from live models proved a challenge and a shock for the conservatively raised Hopper.
In 1913, at the famous Armory Show, Hopper sold his first painting, Sailing (1911), which he painted over an earlier self-portrait. Hopper was thirty-one, and though he hoped his first sale would lead to others in short order, his career would not catch fire for many more years to come.
Shortly after his father’s death that same year, Hopper moved to the Washington Square apartment in the Greenwich Village section of New York City, where he would live for the rest of his life.
The following year he received a commission to make some movie posters and handle publicity for a movie company. Though he did not like the illustration work, Hopper was a lifelong devotee of the cinema and the theatre, both of which became subjects for his paintings. Each form influenced his compositional methods.
At an impasse over his oil paintings, in 1915 Hopper turned to etching, producing about 70 works, many of urban scenes of both Paris and New York. He also produced some posters for the war effort, as well as continuing with occasional commercial projects. When he could, Hopper did some outdoor watercolors on visits to New England, especially at the art colonies at Ogunquit, Maine and Monhegan Island.
Hopper was very productive through the 1930s and early 1940s, producing among many important works New York Movie (1939), Girlie Show (1941), Nighthawks (1942), Hotel Lobby (1943) and Morning in a City (1944).
In the 1950s and early 1960s, he created several more major works, including First Row Orchestra (1951); Morning Sun and Hotel by a Railroad, both in 1952; and Intermission (1963).
Hopper died in his studio near Washington Square in New York City on May 15, 1967. His wife, who died 10 months later, bequeathed their joint collection of over three thousand works to the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Hopper’s 1926 nude painting titled “Eleven A.M.”
Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks, 1942
Alexander Calder in his studio, 1955
Photo by Evans Hulton
Alexander Calder, sculptor, was born 124 years ago today.
Calder was the originator of the mobile — a type of kinetic sculpture the delicately balanced or suspended components of which move in response to motor power or air currents. His stationary sculptures are called stabiles. He also produced numerous wire figures, notably for a vast miniature circus.
Born in Lawnton, Pennsylvania, Calder’s father, Stirling Calder, was a well-known sculptor who created many public installations, a majority of them in nearby Philadelphia. His grandfather, sculptor Alexander Milne Calder, was born in Scotland, immigrated to Philadelphia in 1868, and is best known for the colossal statue of William Penn on top of Philadelphia City Hall's tower.
Calder's mother, Nanette, was a professional portrait artist, who had studied at the Académie Julian and the Sorbonne in Paris from around 1888 until 1893. She moved to Philadelphia, where she met Stirling Calder while studying at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. They married on February 22, 1895.
Calder’s sister, Margaret Calder Hayes, is considered instrumental in the development of the UC Berkeley Art Museum.
In 1902, Calder posed nude for his father’s sculpture, The Man Cub, which is now located in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. That same year he also completed his earliest sculpture, a clay elephant.
Three years later, Stirling Calder contracted tuberculosis, and Calder's parents moved to a ranch in Oracle, Arizona, leaving the children in the care of family friends for a year. The children were reunited with their parents in late March, 1906 and stayed at the ranch in Arizona until fall of the same year.
After Arizona, the Calder family moved to Pasadena, California. The windowed cellar of the family home became Calder's first studio and he received his first set of tools. He used scraps of copper wire that he found in the streets to make jewelry and beads for his sister's dolls.
On January 1, 1907, Nanette Calder took her son to the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, where he observed a four-horse-chariot race. This style of event later became the finale of Calder's wire circus shows.
In 1909, when Calder was in the fourth grade, he sculpted a dog and a duck out of sheet brass as Christmas gifts for his parents. The sculptures were three dimensional and the duck was kinetic because it rocked when gently tapped.
In 1910, the Calder family moved back to Philadelphia, where Sandy briefly attended Germantown Academy, then moved to Croton-on-Hudson, New York. In Croton, during his early high school years, Calder was befriended by the painter, Everett Shinn, with whom he built a gravity powered system of mechanical trains.
After Croton, the Calders moved to Spuyten Duyvil to be closer to the Tenth Street Studio Building in New York City, where Stirling Calder rented a studio. While living in Spuyten Duyvil, Calder attended high school in nearby Yonkers.
In 1912, Stirling Calder was appointed acting chief of the Department of Sculpture of the Panama–Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco. He began work on sculptures for the exposition that was held in 1915.
During Calder's high school years (1912–1915), the family moved back and forth between New York and California. In each new location, Calder's parents reserved cellar space as a studio for their son.
Toward the end of this period, Calder stayed with friends in California while his parents moved back to New York, so that he could graduate from Lowell High School in San Francisco. Calder graduated with the class of 1915.
Calder moved to New York and enrolled at the Art Students' League, studying briefly with Thomas Hart Benton, George Luks, Kenneth Hayes Miller and John Sloan.
While a student, he worked for the National Police Gazette where, in 1925, one of his assignments was sketching the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus. Calder became fascinated with the circus, a theme that would reappear in his later work.
In 1926, Calder moved to Paris, visited the Académie de la Grande Chaumière and he established a studio at 22 rue Daguerre in the Montparnasse Quarter. In June, 1929, while traveling by boat from Paris to New York, Calder met his future wife, Louisa James (1905-1996), grandniece of author Henry James and philosopher William James. They married in 1931.
While in Paris, Calder met and became friends with a number of avant-garde artists, including Joan Miró, Jean Arp and Marcel Duchamp. Calder and Louisa returned to America in 1933 to settle in a farmhouse they purchased in Roxbury, Connecticut, where they raised a family (first daughter, Sandra born 1935, second daughter, Mary, in 1939).
In 1955, Alexander and Louisa Calder travelled around in India for three months, where Calder produced nine sculptures as well as some jewelry. In 1962, Calder settled into his new workshop, Carroi, which was of a futuristic design and overlooked the valley of the Lower Chevrière to Saché in Indre-et-Loire (France).
He did not hesitate to offer his gouaches and small mobiles to his friends in the country, he even donated to the town a stabile trônant, which since 1974 has been situated in front of the church. It is an anti-sculpture free from gravity.
Throughout his artistic career, Calder named many of his works in French, regardless of where they were destined for eventual display.
Calder died unexpectedly on November 11, 1976, shortly after opening a major retrospective show at the Whitney Museum in New York.
A suburban family man with an office job, Declan Patrick McManus was somewhat removed from the revolution being staged in late-night clubs in 1977 London by punk-rock pioneers like The Sex Pistols, The Clash and The Damned.
"All these bands were playing in the middle of the night," he later recounted "so I couldn't go. I was married with a son."
Unlike most of the other wage-earners he rode the tube with, however, Declan McManus was about to become a star himself — though not under his given name.
After three years living in London and trying to balance his day job with his musical ambitions, the man now known as Elvis Costello finally made his breakthrough with the release of his debut album, My Aim Is True, on this day in 1977 — 46 years ago.
Both musically and personally, Costello wasn't really part of the punk scene he came out of, but the anger and attitude that defined Costello's far more sophisticated songwriting definitely reflected his sympathy with the punk movement.
"We lived in a block of flats and we couldn't really play music at night," he later recalled, "but I really used to enjoy playing 'God Save The Queen' — loud — because all the little old ladies would be outraged."
Costello wrote nearly all of the songs that would make up My Aim Is True during the first half of 1977, while playing live gigs and squeezing in recording sessions around his day job with producer Nick Lowe.
From its appropriately titled first track, "Welcome To The Working Week," to the now-classic "Alison," "Less Than Zero" and "(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes," My Aim Is True announced the arrival of a truly unique new talent.
Concerned that his music might not reach a wide enough audience, Costello staged the now-famous stunt of performing live on the street outside a meeting of CBS executives in late July, 1977 to "protest" the fact that his album, released in the UK on the independent Stiff label, had no distribution in the United States.
Within months, he was signed to CBS, and the American release of My Aim Is True followed in the spring of 1978.
Less than 12 months later, Elvis Costello had two more full-length albums in release — This Year's Model (1978) and Armed Forces (1979) — and was well on his way toward a successful music career.
George Clinton is 82 years old today.
A singer, songwriter, bandleader and music producer and the principal architect of P-Funk, Clinton was the mastermind of the bands, Parliament and Funkadelic, during the 1970s and early 1980s and launched a solo career in 1981. He is one of the foremost innovators of funk music, along with James Brown and Sly Stone.
Born in Kannapolis, North Carolina (allegedly in an outhouse), Clinton grew up in Plainfield, New Jersey and currently resides in Tallahassee, Florida. During his teen years, Clinton formed a doo wop group inspired by Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers called The Parliaments. His day job was straightening hair at a barber salon in Plainfield.
For a period in the 1960s, Clinton was a staff songwriter for Motown. Despite initial commercial failure (and one major hit single —"(I Wanna) Testify" in 1967), The Parliaments eventually found success under the names Parliament and Funkadelic in the 70s.
These two bands combined the elements of musicians such as Jimi Hendrix, Sly and the Family Stone, Cream and James Brown while exploring different sounds, technology and lyricism. Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic dominated diverse music during the 1970s with over 40 R&B hit singles (including three #1s) and three platinum albums. Clinton's efforts as a solo artist began in 1982.
He is also a notable music producer working on almost all of the albums he performs on, as well as producing albums for Bootsy Collins and Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Here, Clinton performs “Atomic Dog.”
Jimi Hendrix used to ram his guitar into his Marshall stage amps while performing.
Here is what the audience couldn’t see. Stage hands behind the amps struggled to keep the heavy cabinets from falling over.
The behind the scenes action in 1969
Photo by Michael Simmons
Rufus Wainwright is 50 years old today.
An American-Canadian singer-songwriter and composer, Wainwright has recorded original music and numerous tracks on compilations and film soundtracks, and has written a classical opera and set Shakespeare sonnets to music for a theater piece by Robert Wilson.
Born in Rhinebeck, New York, to folk singers Kate McGarrigle and Loudon Wainwright III, Wainwright’s parents divorced when he was three. He lived with his mother in Montreal for most of his youth, and has dual U.S. and Canadian citizenship.
Wainwright attended high school at the Millbrook School in New York (which would later inspire his song "Millbrook"). He began playing the piano at age six, and started touring at 13 with "The McGarrigle Sisters and Family," a folk group featuring Rufus, his sister, Martha, his mother, Kate, and aunt, Anna.
His song, "I'm a-Runnin'," which he performed in the film, Tommy Tricker and the Stamp Traveller, at the age of 14, earned him a nomination for a 1989 Genie Award for Best Original Song.
Wainwright became interested in opera during his adolescent years, and the genre strongly influences his music. (For instance, the song "Barcelona" features lyrics from the libretto of Giuseppe Verdi's opera, Macbeth.) During this time, he became interested in Édith Piaf, Al Jolson and Judy Garland.
Through weekly shows at Cafe Sarajevo, Wainwright was on the Montreal club circuit and eventually cut a series of demo tapes produced by Pierre Marchand, who later produced Wainwright's album, Poses. The resulting tapes impressed his father, Loudon, who passed them on to his friend, Van Dyke Parks.
Parks sent the recordings to Lenny Waronker, the DreamWorks executive who eventually signed Wainwright to his label.
Waronker said the following of Wainwright: "When I was about to listen to his tape, I remember clearly I was thinking, 'Gee, if he has the mom's musicality and smarts, and the dad's smarts and voice, that'd be nice.' Then I put it on and I said, 'Oh, my God, this is stunning.'"
The singer moved to New York City in 1996, performing regularly at Club Fez. He relocated to Los Angeles that year and began work on his first studio album, Rufus Wainwright, which was released in 1998.
Waronker paired Wainwright with producer Jon Brion, and the two spent most of 1996 and 1997 making the record. Wainwright recorded 56 songs in total on 62 rolls of tape. The sessions cost $700,000.
Here, Wainwright performs Leonard Cohen’s “Halleujah.”
Aretha Franklin, 1967
Photo from Michael Ochs Archives