Highland House Museum of the Truro Historical Society is proud to announce the opening of its permanent exhibition dedicated to the work and lives of Edward and Josephine Hopper. Edward Hopper, generally considered the greatest American realist painter of the twentieth century, was in a sense a Truro artist, usually spending at least four months a year in Truro from 1930 to his death in 1967. Truro was more than a vacation spot for the Hoppers: using an inheritance Jo received, the Hoppers bought a property in 1933 on a bluff over Fisher Beach and Edward designed a house and studio where he produced about a third of all his work from then on. (Pictured here: Truro Hospitality by Josephine N Hopper, image by Janis Hersh)
By opening a room dedicated to both Hoppers, Highland House Museum wants to show how these artists responded to the Truro landscape and culture around them and interacted with other artists and writers and with year-round residents. Although the museum does not own any paintings by Edward, it recently received a gift of dresses, hand made rugs, a hand made quilt and memorabilia of Jo’s, which bring her to life and help us to understand the complexity of creative relationships. These gifts by J.Anton Schiffenhaus and Laurence Schiffenhaus are in honor of their mother Mary Schiffenhaus, who was a friend of Jo Hopper’s and who inherited the Hopper House in South Truro.
It is not well known that Josephine (“Jo”) Hopper was also an artist whose career had been more successful than Edward’s when they married in 1924, both by then in their early forties. Jo, an accomplished watercolorist, encouraged Hopper (who then described himself as an illustrator) to try watercolors and she arranged for his work to be included in a Brooklyn Museum exhibition that she was in. After the marriage, however, Edward’s career flourished, but Jo’s declined and many of her paintings have been lost. In 2000, it was the Highland House Museum in Truro that finally gave Jo her first solo exhibition, featuring her watercolors and Truro Hospitality, a painting in the Highland House collection that Jo made for the marriage of Horace (“Snowy”) Snow Jr., who operated a gas station in central Truro. In addition to Truro Hospitalitythe new exhibit displays Jo’s two-sided watercolor of an apple tree and a house, a striking abstract rug and her favorite dress.
When his 1933 retrospective at MOMA in New York established Edward as one of the leading American artists, several then-recent Truro works were included, such as The Camel’s Hump(1931), Corn Hill(1930),South Truro Church (1930) and Ryder’s House(1933), a study of a red roof, angles and shadows which he carried by hand to the museum to make sure it was included. “I believe that the great painters with their intellect as master have attempted to force this unwilling medium of paint and canvas into a record of their emotions,” Edward wrote in his Notes on Paintingfor the retrospective.
Arrival in Truro inspired Edward to produce numerous watercolors and paintings of Cape Cod architecture and the Truro landscape. The Hopper Room exhibit compares Edward’s house portraits with how the Truro originals looked then and now. Although he identified himself as a realist, Edward simplified forms and increasingly emphasized the geometry of the houses, barns and sheds he chose to depict. The exhibition examines works such as Cobb’s Barn and Distant Houses,Marshall’s House,Ryder’s House, and House near the Back Shore(demolished after the gales of March 2018).
Director Jim Summers considers that a great year is unfolding for the Highland House Museum. The museum has had a significant face-lift thanks to a grant from the Community Preservation Committee. With the opening of the Hopper room “Now we can honor Edward and Josephine Hopper, artists who lived amongst us for over thirty years. When you look at Jo’s little circle rug and her long blue dress or you see how Edward used the houses around us to create a great American art, the two of them really come to life.” The exhibition has been curated by Helen McNeil-Ashton and Henry Lum. Helen was responsible for the Jo Hopper presentation and overall design, and Henry was responsible for “Arrival in Truro” which developed out of the Hopper exhibition he curated at Highland House in 2013.
The exhibition features images of Hopper paintings of local houses next to photographs of these houses as they exist today. Most of the photographs were created by Janis Hersh, who herself lives in an area of Truro that was the subject of many Hopper paintings. A preview of these images are available on her website: https://www.janishershphotography.com/hoppers-houses/.
Our Wednesday Night Speaker Series will feature two events in conjunction with this exhibition. On July 11th, Christine McCarthy, Director of the Provincetown Art Association and Museum (PAAM) (which received a significant gift from the Schiffenhaus family of drawings by Edward and Josephine Hopper in 2016), will give a talk on Edward Hopper in Truro. On August 15, Helen McNeil-Ashton, Vice-President in Charge of the Collection at Highland House Museum, will speak about Creativity and Conflict: The Marriage of Edward and Josephine Hopper. Both talks will take place at the Highland House Museum from 7- 8 PM.