Monthly Archives: November, 2018

The Price of Everything?

Edward Hopper, Chop Suey, 1929

By Aldis Browne

On November 13th Hopper’s 1929 masterpiece ‘Chop Suey’ set a record at nearly $92 million at Christie’s, New York.

In the spotlight of a contemporary art sale at Christie’s on November 15th, David Hockney’s monumental ‘Pool With Two Figures’ sold for more than $90 million. Like the Hopper, this, too, was extensively reported.

On the same day the Hockney was sold, the sale of another painting by Edward Hopper slipped by virtually unnoticed. ‘Two Comedians’ was Edward Hopper’s final painting. His eloquently moving farewell self-portrait, bowing from a stage beside his wife – and muse – Josephine, changed hands at an American sale at Sotheby’s for $12.5 million, below its pre-sale estimate.

Hopper loved theater and cinema. ‘Two on the Aisle’, 1927 – ‘New York Movie’, 1939 and ‘ First Row Orchestra’, 1951 chart a direct path to Two Comedians. Jo Hopper described the painting as “A dark stage and two small figures out of a pantomime” where she and Hopper take their final bows dressed as Pierrot and Pierrette from the commedia dell’arte.

Is price alone driving press perspective? There is more to report about art than record results – far more. Following the test of time, who will be judged as the wisest buyer? Perhaps another story is lurking here… one just waiting to be told.

We invite your comments.

Edward Hopper, New York Movie, 1939

Edward Hopper, First Row Orchestra, 1951

Edward Hopper, Two Comedians, 1966

David Hockney, ‘Pool With Two Figures, 1972

Election Day, 1852, By Aldis Browne

George Caleb Bingham’s The County Election (1852) is described as “a crowded voting scene on the main street of a town in front of an open porch.”  What is its more profound meaning? The artist depicts an election through several vignettes in an era when slavery prevailed and only men could vote. Augmenting the museum’s notes, my interpretation, reading from left to right, is:

Almost certainly poured by a slave, a voter is given another drink–clearly more than ‘one too many’. Over his left shoulder, a seated voter has passed out.

Boys in the foreground play a game of mumble-the-peg. The game, played by tossing a knife in the air, may symbolize the potential peris of politics

Behind the boys, perhaps this is a self-portrait of the artist seated on the steps, sketching.

On the porch a hopeful candidate tips his hat while handing his card to the next voter in line. The wary voter keeps his hands in his pockets.

Beside the recalcitrant voter, another voter is sworn in, attesting he has not voted elsewhere.

Beneath them, three men discuss the election.

To their right, a gentleman reads a newspaper, perhaps looking for endorsements, while another looks over his shoulder.

At the far right a symbolic figure, beaten and bowed with head bandaged and trousers torn, has clearly lost his fight.

In Bingham’s Missouri of 1852, slaves had no rights at all, and many men asked: “Why should women have the right to vote, they’d only vote the way their husbands tell them?”

“Bingham believed slavery to be immoral and an issue that threatened the future of the Union. On these grounds, as a state legislator he advocated against the expansion of slavery beyond its original borders.” (Deborah Keating, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO)