Our guide at the Edward Hopper House Thursday was a sweet-voiced, bohemian-looking woman in a cardigan with a gray page boy. She was quietly determined that we would get the most out of our visit, despite the upstairs rooms being off-limits and there being not much left to see. Hence the tour of the bathroom. Not going to guess how old she was, but old enough that she knew Hopper, not well but well enough to say hello to in passing. She was on more familiar terms with Hopper’s sister, who actually owned the house, Hopper coming to town on visits. Hopper died in 1967 and she described herself as being “very young” then which I took to mean she was a teenager or even in her early twenties. Not a little girl, at any rate.
People always called him an old grouch, she told us, but she never thought so. Hopper’s sister used to like to sit on her front porch with her Siamese cat and our guide would often stop when she was out running errands or heading over to a friend’s house to chat and pet the cat. One day while she was there Hopper came out of the house. I’d didn’t ask but I’d like to think this happened when she was still a girl so I can imagine the big, lugubrious, typically glowering Hopper, a large, less than jovial presence, towering over her. But he smiled and said hello and the three of them spent some time discussing their mutual fondness for cats.
After that, whenever anyone said to our guide that Hopper was a grump, she would smile and say sweetly, “Obviously, you never talked to him about cats.”
Photo of Hopper in his Greenwich Village studio circa 1939 courtesy of Carnegie Museum of Art via the Smithsonian Art Museum.