Elvis Presley's TV Room, Graceland, Memphis, Tennessee

Memphis BBQ and Jo Hopper

It has been suggested that Edward Hopper’s wife, Jo Nivison Hopper, rather than Edward himself, painted Cape Cod Barn. Jo Hopper, an unsuccessful painter, met Edward when he was forty-one and she forty. They married a year later.

Jo Hopper was most likely a virgin at the time of their marriage while Edward’s experience was almost as limited. The two had a co-dependent and tempestuous relationship. It was a source of constant amusement, tinged with horror, for those surrounding them. Their relationship was without doubt the inspiration for many of Hopper’s paintings. Jo also jealously acted as Edward’s primary female model.

Jo Hopper Launched Edward’s Career

It was Jo Hopper who encouraged Edward’s successful foray into watercolors. This move gained him his first representation as a painter at the Rehn Gallery in 1924. He sold out his first one-man show there that year, launching his stellar career in painting.

She also introduced him to the Brooklyn Museum in 1923, who bought his watercolor ‘The Mansard Roof’ (1923), his first sale of a picture to a museum and only his second overall. Forever the frustrated artist and wife, Jo complained bitterly and often about the foundering of her career in favor of Edward’s. Her logorrhea in sharp contrast to the famous, near limitless silence of her husband.

Mansard Roof (1923) Edward Hopper
Mansard Roof (1923)

The childless couple lived and traveled together, rarely leaving each other’s sides. Jo executed watercolors and paintings of many of the same landscapes as Edward. Jo’s pictures lack the intensity and precision of Edward’s compositions. No matter who is responsible for ‘Cape Cod Barn’, in the end it comes across more as a study than as a finished work.

Jo Hopper watercolors
Jo Hopper watercolors

Elvis and BBQ

Before leaving Memphis, my mother and I visit Graceland and, at my insistence, multiple rundown barbecue shacks. My mother’s vegetarian diet is challenged by the inclusion of pork in every vegetable dish. Although we both long for a fruit smoothie, we are heading in the wrong direction.

Elvis Presley's TV Room, Graceland, Memphis, Tennessee
Elvis Presley’s TV Room, Graceland

Our next stop is Tuscaloosa, a sleepy, red-brick town where wealth is hidden behind rolling green hills and locked gates. It’s the kind of place where you get salty jowl bacon with your biscuits and white gravy. Where time moves as slowly as such a meal moves down your digestive tract.

2 thoughts on “Memphis BBQ and Jo Hopper

  1. While you are in Tennessee, there is a Hopper painting in Chattanooga at the Hunter Museum, titled House on the Cape (Cottage, Cape Cod). It is an oil painting on wood of the same house as House by a Road that you saw in Arizona.

  2. Thanks Nancy. It’s on my itinerary and coming to a post soon! (I have to get down to Florida and up through Atlanta first.)

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