Hopper studied illustration with the Correspondence School of Illustrating in New York City in 1899 and then at the New York School of Art between 1900 and 1906. He studied painting a year later with William Merrit Chase and then Kenneth Hayes Miller and Robert Henri.
In 1906 Hopper traveled to Paris, London, Haarlem, Amsterdam, Berlin and Brussels to study works by European artists. Returning to New York in 1907, he painted and worked part-time as an illustrator for fiction and trade magazines.
Hopper’s first exhibition was a group show, held at the Harmonie Club building in New York in March 1908.
From 1910 Hopper spent his summers painting in rural New England, in Gloucester and Cape Anne, Massachusetts, and Maine. In 1913 he moved to Washington Square, in the Greenwich Village area of New York City, which remained his permanent base. Hopper’s subject matter was derived from two main sources: first, everyday American life such as restaurants, gas stations, theaters, railroads, and street scenes; and second, seascapes and rural landscapes.
Initially, Hopper was more successful as an illustrator and with his etchings, in both sales and exhibitions. In January 1920 he held his first solo exhibition, of 16 paintings at the Whitney Studio Club but was discouraged by the failure to achieve either sales or critical attention. In 1923, with the encouragement of artist Josephine Verstille Nivison (whom he married in 1924), Hopper began painting in watercolour. In 1924, he had his second solo exhibition at the Frank K. M. Rehn Gallery, which was a critical and commercial success.
From 1930 Edward and Josephine (Jo) began to spend their summers painting in Truro on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, where they built a home in 1934. Hopper was an intensely private person and led a somewhat reclusive life, two characteristics that are reflected in his paintings. Images of loneliness and detachment pervade Hopper’s works where he often depicted solitary figures (mostly women) who are often occupied with their own thoughts.
Hopper was very productive through the 1930s and early 1940s, producing many of his most important works. In the late 1940’s however, his health was poor and he underwent several prostate surgeries. Hopper was active again in the 1950s and early 1960s, producing several more major works.
Both the art world and pop culture has been influenced by Hopper’s work. Many artists have cited him as influential, including Willem de Kooning, Jim Dine, and Mark Rothko. His cinematic compositions and use of light and dark made him popular with filmmakers such as Alfred Hitchcock (Psycho), Ridley Scott (Blade Runner), and Sam Mendes (New York Movie) to name a few.
Edward Hopper died on May 15, 1967 in his studio in New York City. Jo, who died 10 months later, left their collection of over three thousand works to the Whitney Museum of American Art.