The beautiful Edward Hopper watercolor at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta was once known as ‘Cape Elizabeth’. However, it was posthumously changed to ‘Foreshore-Two Lights’ (1927). Two Lights is a rocky point with two lighthouses at the tip of Cape Elizabeth peninsula, Maine. So beautiful is it that Jo Hopper wrote about ‘Foreshore-Two Lights’, ‘This one of his best sea pictures [sic], calmly dramatic but making no claims.’
Foreshore-Two Lights: A Zen Purity
‘Foreshore-Two Lights’ deserves such adulation. It has rich, dark tones and an almost Zen painting purity.
Like Hopper’s last oil paintings, the composition is pared down to basics. There are no ships, people, lighthouses or structures. The picture simply portrays the meeting of land and sea. It has Japanese-like brushstrokes of layered chocolate and charcoal brown in the rocks. Splashes of blue lead the eye to the navy blue water beyond.
Hopper as Abstract Artist
There is an almost complete absence of the geometric forms common in Hopper’s other watercolors. This and the use of blocks of color makes it reminiscent of Mark Rothko and his fellow Abstract Expressionists.
‘Foreshore-Two Lights’, and other pictures like it, lend credence to the theory that Hopper was significantly influenced by abstract art of the 1920’s and 30’s. This despite his frequent protestations to the contrary. In turn, Hopper was a source of inspiration for Abstract Expressionists from the 1940’s onwards.
Steve Martin and the High Museum Atlanta
Luckily for Atlantans, unlike watercolors at many other museums, ‘Foreshore-Two Lights’ is displayed on regular rotation. It sits alongside watercolors by artists like Winslow Homer and Andrew Wyeth.
Larry Miller, Works on Paper Specialist at the museum, says that one of his roles is to share as much of the museum’s art as possible. This maximizes the chances that visitors to the museum develop a special connection with a picture and thus with art as a whole.
One regular visitor to the museum in the past was Steve Martin. Martin performed in Atlanta in his early days as a comedian. Indeed, he may have been inspired to become a collector by such visits. It’s conceivable that, for Martin, ‘Foreshore-Two Lights’ was that one special picture.
As Larry Miller, an artist in his own right, says, ‘The museum’s job is to bring quality to people. It’s not always easy to do that. But artists like Hopper make it a lot easier.’
Which museum do you think fulfills its role of ‘bringing quality to people’? How?