Edward Hopper, ‘Crucifixion’, ca. 1900, Thurston Royce Gallery of Fine Art, LTD.

The Passion of Christ, from his death on the cross on Good Friday to his triumphant resurrection on Easter Sunday is a subject every art student at the time studied in Old Master paintings. Students were encouraged to compare and dissect this seminal theme of Western art and to copy various versions of the subject. The drawing by Hopper appears not to be a copy of an old work, but one of his own invention. The central cross with the nailed Christ dominates the space, but directly behind it is a second cross, indicated only the outstretched armpost corresponding on a plane with the back of Christ's knee. The bound feet of the malfactor in the upper right-hand corner is the only indication of the third cross on Calvary. The solitary Centurion holding a diagonally positioned spear gazes up at the figure of Christ above him in a dramatic reconfiguration of the usual point of view and conventions of depicting this subject. The simple, unadorned background appears to have been stumped or rubbed in the areas of shadow in order to blend the individual strokes on the pencil. This technique also contributes to the general lugubriousness of the scene. This early Hopper drawing is unusual in that he eschewed his standard systemic approach in favor of a more atmospheric technique. Thus, this sheet suggests a work executed in black chalk with its fine tonal gradation rather than the graphite pencil, which was actually used. The raking light which bathes the central figure on the cross, as well as the centurion below, establishes the time of day as late in the day or sunset.

Signature: Unsigned.

The artist, until 1967; to his widow, Jo Hopper, until 1968; to private collection, until the present.

About Edward Hopper

Edward Hopper defined 20th-century realism with his austere, eerie scenes that conveyed the alienation and isolation of modern life. Nighthawks (1942), a painting of three customers sitting at the counter of a diner late at night, is among his most famous works. The illusion of light pervades his paintings, which depict late 19th-century architecture, coastal views, and scenes of the city. Hopper’s characters, even when painted in groups, seem disconnected and lost in thought. "Great art is the outward expression of an inner life in the artist, and this inner life will result in his personal vision of the world," he said.

American, 1882-1967, Nyack, New York, based in Maine, Massachusetts and New York