“The figural works tend to be often double the price of equivalent non-figural works from similar periods,” he said.
Scholars have framed Chop Suey
as a prescient painting that, while emblematic of pre-war
, also anticipated post-war movements. Some have suggested that Hopper’s incorporation of the “chop suey” signage outside the window anticipated the advent of
several decades later. Others have likened the painting’s strong geometry and contrasting colors as a kind of prototypical
“This very painting was cited specifically by
as a very important influence on him early on in his understanding of color and light,” Widing noted.
Three days after Chop Suey goes under the hammer, Sotheby’s will offer a startling oil painting Hopper made 37 years later, the year before his death, very consciously as his farewell canvas. Two Comedians (1966), which is expected to fetch between $12 million and $18 million at Sotheby’s afternoon sale of American art on November 16th, features two figures in pierrot costumes standing on a stage, preparing to bow. The male figure is a self-portrait, while the female figure was once again modeled after Hopper’s beloved wife and muse. They stand before an expansive, portentous black void, with a wall of bright-green stage shrubbery to the right of the composition. While characteristically enigmatic, it is also exceptionally personal and heartfelt for a Hopper.
“It is his final painting, and the culmination of a number of themes that he was exploring throughout his oeuvre,” said Liz Sterling, the senior vice president and senior specialist in the Impressionist and modern art department at Sotheby’s. “Jo was an artist, as well, but was always overshadowed by Hopper. However, she was his muse and model and the protagonist of so many of his works, so here, he’s kind of acknowledging her.”
The painting, which once belonged to Frank Sinatra, was also featured in the Grand Palais exhibition, a show that Sterling, like her colleague at Christie’s, credited for significantly expanding the market for Hopper’s work.
“Following that [exhibition], we did see this huge uptick in interest in his work among an international audience,” she said. “It’s a testament to how scholarship and the market go hand in hand when it’s a truly exemplary show.” She added that ahead of next week’s sale, collectors from Asia, Europe, and the U.S. have all expressed interest in Two Comedians.
Hopper’s final painting, like many of his mature works, verges on
, whereas his earlier paintings, like Chop Suey
and his most iconic work, Nighthawks
(1942), retain a distinctly American flavor that nevertheless speaks to audiences—and collectors—across the globe.
“The obvious question is: Why, what is it about Hopper?” Widing asked, reflecting on “that magnetic quality that he has, or what I sometimes call that deeper layer, which Hopper has underneath his works, which draw you back again and again to try to understand his works better.”
The uncanny blend of Americanness and universal, global themes that makes Hopper’s paintings so potent has perhaps never been better articulated than by his contemporary
, writing in the catalogue for Hopper’s 1933 solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art
“Edward Hopper is an American—nowhere but in America could such an art have come into being,” Burchfield wrote. “But its underlying classical nature prevents its being merely local or national in its appeal. It is my conviction, anyhow, that the bridge to international appreciation is the national bias, providing, of course, it is subconscious.”