Wires

New show opens Parisian window onto artist Hopper

* France's first major retrospective of Edward Hopper opensin Paris

* Exhibition shows Parisian influences and hope behinddystopia

PARIS, Oct 9 (Reuters) - A major retrospective of EdwardHopper opening in Paris overturns some of the cliches about the20th-century artist, uncovering the French and broader Europeaninfluences that lie behind his label as the consummate"American" scene-painter.

The show, which runs from Oct. 10 to Jan. 28 at the GrandPalais, is devoted in part to familiar works such as 1942's"Nighthawks" or 1940's "Gas", scenes of urban and ruralloneliness which show a dystopian view of mid-20th centuryAmerica.

But the first half focuses on his formative years and histhree visits to the French capital -- 1906, 1909 and 1910 --when he painted scenes of Paris and drew inspiration fromartists such as Edgar Degas, Albert Marquet and Walter Sickert,or even Dutch painter Rembrandt.

Juxtaposing Hopper's work with paintings such as "A CottonOffice in New Orleans" by Degas in 1873, the exhibitionhighlights themes such as the world of business that would laterbe woven into his American vision.

Meanwhile, little-known works such as his 1909 "Louvre in aThunderstorm," or "Stairway at 48, Rue de Lille, Paris" from1906, show a new cosmopolitan side to the artist, and earlysigns of his obsession with architecture and small urban detail.

"There's a big gap in the apparent knowledge of whatHopper's painting is, the one which has been reproducedeverywhere in posters, on the covers of novels and so on," saidexhibition curator Didier Ottinger.

"In fact his work is much richer, much more complex thanthat," he said.

AN AWAKENING

The exhibition, the first major retrospective of Hopper tobe held in Paris, brings together some 160 works inchronological order, showing the continuity of theme and the wayhe explored his favourite subjects.

It also includes his etchings from 1915 and magazine coversand posters from the early 1920s, when Hopper was forced to earnhis living as a commercial illustrator.

Born in 1882 in Nyack, New York, he studied art from anearly age, attending the New York School of Illustrating in 1899and later the New York School of Art, before coming under theinfluence of American artist Robert Henri.

It was only in 1924, however, that he achieved recognitionand commercial success, following an exhibition of hiswatercolours of neo-Victorian houses in the Brooklyn Museum.

One of the other conventional views of Hopper challenged bythe retrospective is the assumption that his work only offers amelancholy, isolated vision of American life.

Viewed together, his paintings, such as "Morning Sun," 1952,often show figures near a window, illuminated by a shaft ofbrilliant light, which for Ottinger reflects an awakening andresistance to alienation.

"This, I think, is the real subject of Hopper's painting.You see people who are awakened by the sun and taken out oftheir condition, which is very poor and very ordinary. This isthe hope that is expressed in Hopper's painting," he said.

(Reporting By Vicky Buffery, editing by Paul Casciato)

((vicky.buffery@thomsonreuters.com)(+33 1 49 49 51 10)(ReutersMessaging: vicky.buffery.thomsonreuters@reuters.net))

Keywords: ART EXHIBITION/HOPPER