On the Edward Hopper tour in Greenwich Village, I got to see some of the places where he and Jo created their lives. He lived in the same apartment on The Row across from Washington Square for over forty years, and Jo moved in with him after they married.
Built in the 1830s, the creme de la creme of New York society lived there. It was the site of the Henry James novel. A hundred years later, Hopper moves in to the fourth floor walk up with a shared toilet. In the 1950s, the landlord tried to kick him out. They went to court, and Hopper won. New York real estate is tough. No indication that they ever got a private loo.
My architectural favorite on today’s tour wasn’t connected to the Hopper’s at all. Robert Deforest, President of the Met Museum, moved from The Row to 10th Street. You can see how he was inspired be East Indian motifs in this elaborately carved wooden window corbels. Built in the 1880s and named one of the ten most beautiful homes in America, NYU has now gutted the interior, so little remains of the Indian craftsmanship. Sigh.
Worse was the famous Tenth Street Studio building, torn down and replaced by a ’50’s modernist apartment building. It was this tear down, as well as Penn Station, that led to forming the Landmark’s Commission.
Across the street is what is left of Gertrude Whitney’s Studio Club, in which even the reclusive Hopper participated. She assembled eight townhouses and the rear stables into exhibition space celebrating living American artists and their current work. All that’s left is the patriotic, streamlined eagle above the doorway, the staircase, and the fireplace, which is a piece of art in itself.
The stables next door? The sign was painted for a movie.
So in this city that’s always changing, today we celebrated an artist who doggedly stayed the same–despite the discomforts of his home and marriage and in the face of art trends that turned in a very different direction.
I saw another example of this juxtaposition at NYU’s Institute of Fine Arts. Lynda Benglis has four works there. Look at the contrast between her famous latex pours from the late 1960s and the 1904 classically-inspired mansion that houses the art history doctoral program. What a place to take a class, as you can see in this slide show.
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My day wrapped with a new opera of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, my favorite of her novels. Some things never change, like the poignant charm of this Austen story, which worked fairly nicely as an opera.