‘Some Artists Dote on Interviews; They All but Kill Me’ -Edward Hopper
“It was a cold cheerless day last Fall, the kind Cape Codders call a hurricane breeder, threatening and overcast since early morning. Through the great picture window of his studio perched high on the bluff he could look down at the seething surf on the beach. Far across the bay, the green, wet waves were all white-capped now and breaking steadily higher…
At first it was a gentle rain, but suddenly the rain became a downpour and pelted fast into a storm. He knew for certain now that he’d have to forget about driving over to Truro for a few roadside sketches or up to Dennis to check the coloring of that old saltbox house. And he could not possibly do any work on his latest painting in this poor light — it certainly wasn’t going to get any brighter, either. Putting it flatly, from an artistic standpoint the day was wasted.
Usually in a situation like this, he could pick up a volume of Robert Frost and read aloud to his wife and pleasantly pass away the time. But it was going to take more than poetry to lift him out of this mood. He was annoyed. Not so much by the loss of time the storm had cost him, but by the thought of the interview scheduled for late that afternoon. Probably no celebrity ever dreaded interviews more than Edward Hopper.
He stooped over to pick up a cigarette from a tray on a table, and after lighting up, lumbered out of his studio into the kitchen where Mrs. Hopper was busy making sandwiches.
‘I think it would be nice if we had a cup of coffee and a bite to eat for that reporter when he gets here, don’t you, Edward?’ Mrs. Hopper asked, bustling around to lower the flame under the teakettle.
‘Do you think he’ll make it in this terrible storm? I don’t think he will, Edward.’
Hopper made no reply, but simply stared out at the rain which crossed and re-crossed the lonely dunes in great white sheets and at the curving, sandy road below, deeply rutted now with little ponds of rainwater. He blinked once, twice, and turned silently away from the window.
Back in the studio, Hopper noticed that the stark, white walls seemed almost determined to resist the oncoming gloom. And for all its unlived in coldness, the room had somehow been imbued with one of the outstanding characteristics of his paintings — unsentimental loneliness. Perhaps Jo is right, he mused, fathering a happy thought; perhaps that newspaper fellow wouldn’t make it after all.
And then he paused suddenly at the threshold as he started back into the kitchen, feeling a rare sense of anticipation. It was on a day like this one, years ago, that a reporter had come from an interview. It was during a hurricane: Hopper remembered that because when the reporter asked if the power lines had been blown down during the storm, he was surprised that they had had neither electric nor telephone service.
Hopper sat down in a comfortable chair, crossed his arms and slowly puffed his cigarette. The reporter, he remembered, had been annoyingly efficient. When Hopper said he couldn’t recall exactly how many museums owned his paintings, the reporter reminded him: 55. And when Hopper said he’d been to Europe once or twice, the reporter corrected him: three times — he’d looked it up in an old clipping.
The reporter had had a disturbing, and at times effected, manner of hissing stupid questions like: ‘How does it feel to be a major American artist, sir?’ and ‘Do you plan to continue to depict the American scene with that famous unflinching attitude of yours, sir?’ Sir! He hated being called sir. Luckily this fellow hadn’t discovered that the Chicago Institute of Fine Arts had given him an honorary doctor’s degree or he’d have been calling him ‘Doc.’
Was there no escape? Couldn’t he remove himself from the room in some way and become a disembodied spirit, perhaps? Maybe he had succeeded after all, Hopper recalled, remembering the reporter’s story which began something like:
‘Hopper is a high-domed and uncomfortable-looking gentleman of simple and secluded habits who has a way of completely erasing himself from a room where others are talking about Hopper, which is sheer boredom for Hopper. Although he sold only two paintings 20 years after completing his studies under Robert Henri, Hopper was no more discouraged by that situation than he is elated today when one of his canvases sells for $5,000. He has yet to concede to the acclaim that comes of being a celebrity, and looks upon publicity with a sorrowful eye.’
‘Some artists thrive on interviews,’ he explained. ‘They all but kill me. I often wonder if —’
But Hopper’s unhappy recollections were broken off by the noise of the kitchen door being opened, great stamping of feet, and the door slamming shut. Then Jo’s exclamations about the weather and well, leave it to a newspaper reporter to manage to drive through… (‘Edward?’) …all that rain. Wouldn’t he like a cup of coffee first? Hopper could hear Jo ask. Mr. Hopper would be right out in a minute and was awfully pleased… (‘Ed-ward!’) …he could come. Wasn’t it a shame that the storm had to creep up so suddenly this afternoon particularly where… (‘Edward. The reporter’s here!’) …
Hopper got up from his chair slowly and sighed. Then he lit a fresh cigarette and headed for the kitchen.”