A Strange Land: Edward Hopper’s Paintings of America


In 2015 Stanford’s Cantor Arts Center acquired New York Corner (1913), an early painting by the celebrated American artist Edward Hopper (1882-1967). In honor of the acquisition, this seminar will explore Hopper’s paintings in detail—but with a twist.

In each class meeting we will pair Hopper’s paintings with the work of another artist or, in some cases, a filmmaker or novelist. The work of these other figures—all notable in their own right (see the course schedule below)—will be given equal, if not greater emphasis, in each seminar meeting. In classroom discussion, our goal will be to build a rich description of Hopper’s art and to understand something of the times when he painted (especially the late 1920s through the late 1950s).

If you have wanted to learn how to look closely at a work of art, and how to interpret film and literature with equal depth—doing so in intensive conversation with the professor and your peers—this is the class for you.

Some of the questions we will address:

What is an artist?

What is an artist’s career?

What does it mean for an artist (or anyone) to develop a lifelong vision of American culture, of American places, of American life?

What is a place (as opposed to a space)?

Is making a painting (or speaking or writing about a painting) a meaningful act in the world?

What does it mean (for Hopper, for any of us) to emerge out of a coherent tradition?

What is “high” art? What is “popular” art? What are the strengths and limitations of each?

Meet the Instructor(s)

Alexander Nemerov

Carl and Marilynn Thoma Provostial Professor of Arts and Humanities and Professor, by courtesy, of English

Photograph by Bob Richman

A scholar of American art, Nemerov writes about the presence of art, the recollection of the past, and the importance of the humanities in our lives today. Committed to teaching the history of art more broadly as well as topics in American visual culture--the history of American photography, for example--he is a noted writer and speaker on the arts. His most recent books are To Make a World: George Ault and 1940s America (2011), the catalogue to the exhibition of the same title he curated at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and Acting in the Night: Macbeth and the Places of the Civil War (2010). His new book, Wartime Kiss: Visions of the Moment in the 1940s, will be published by Princeton University Press this fall.

Photograph by Bob Richman