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Ships (1898) Edward Hopper Brevard Museum Melbourne Florida

Brevard Museum: Melbourne, Florida

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Melbourne is located on the Space Coast of Florida just south of Cape Canaveral. Although it bears scant relation, it is named after Melbourne, Australia. Similarly, Melbourne’s Brevard Museum of Art and Science bears little resemblance to the museums we have visited.

Brevard Museum: An Unlikely Hopper Venue

The Brevard Museum is located in the Eau Gallie neighborhood. It is officially designed a ‘blighted’ area by the federal government. Similarly, the Brevard is a small, struggling museum. There are no Sloans, Henris or Cassatts here. And no new buildings plastered with philanthropists’ names.

The pony-tailed registrar doubles as the security guard for the three small galleries. And the struggling air conditioning does little to keep the humid Florida heat out.

The Brevard Museum is a most unlikely venue to find an Edward Hopper picture. But an early painting, ‘Ships’ (c. 1898) hides here in storage.

‘Ships’: An Early Hopper

The Reverend and Mrs. Arthayer Sanborn retired to Melbourne. They gave ‘Ships’ to the Brevard in 1986. Previously, Edward Hopper gifted ‘Ships’ to Sanborn after Marion Hopper’s death. As discussed, this was a show of gratitude for the care Sanborn provided to Hopper’s sister.

‘Ships’ was accepted into the  museum’s permanent collection in November, 1986 with an estimated value of $25,000. At the time, it was accessioned with a ‘blackware figure ceramic’ from Costa Rica, valued at $100. Also joining it was a manatee lithograph, donated by the Johnson Junior High School Science Club.

Although it is a Hopper, ‘Ships’ is more a product of its time. A young man is at the rudder of a sailboat. He navigates past larger ships on a turbulent sea. The dark palette mimics Winslow Homer’s portraits of the sea from the late nineteenth century. Its busy harbor is a throwback to earlier American marine paintings.

Later in his career, noisy drama is replaced by an uneasy, elliptical silence.

In Hopper’s later pictures of sailing boats, like ‘The Long Leg’ in California, the boat and its occupants are alone. Here, the ocean and the sky are achingly blue. The scene provides little solace. Later in his careeer, the noisy drama of ‘Ships’ is replaced by an uneasy, elliptical silence.

Have you ever found a Hopper picture in an unusual or unexpected place?

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4 thoughts on “Brevard Museum: Melbourne, Florida

  1. I agree with Philip. This picture also evidences the young Hopper’s vivid imagination–looking out over the Hudson, and imagining a busier, more turbulent body of water, simultaneously populated by every conceivable kind of vessel. This could be the prototype for the electronic version of the “Battleship” game!

  2. Postscript: One thing that has always interested me about “The Long Leg” is that there aren’t any occupants; who’s sailing that boat? At least I can’t see anyone in the reproductions–and certainly not in the postage stamp of this work! I’ve never seen the original, though, so am I right that this sailboat is gliding along all by its lonesome self?!

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