Jun 30, 2022 - Sale 2611

Sale 2611 - Lot 127

Estimate: $ 70,000 - $ 100,000
The Railroad.

Etching, 1922. 200x248 mm; 7 7/8x9 3/4 inches, full margins. Eighth state (of 8). Signed and titled twice in pencil, lower margin. A superb, richly-inked impression of this extremely scarce etching with very strong contrasts.

We have found only two other impressions of this etching at auction in the past 30 years.

According to Carl Zigrosser, Hopper "does not number his prints and has fixed one hundred as the outside limit of impressions taken. This does not mean that there are one hundred proofs of each subject in existence. The artist prints them as the occasion demands. He has done his own printing except for Night Shadows (see lot 107), where the plate was turned over to Peter Platt for the printing of a large edition published by the New Republic."

The conté crayon preparatory drawing for this etching is now in the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, accession number 1962-30-5a,b.

Hopper first became interested in etching through Charles Meryon's prints of Paris which highlight the city's architecture. After encouragement from friend and fellow artist Martin Lewis, Hopper embarked on printmaking in 1915. The emotional tension in Hopper's paintings were soon present in his etchings, much of which were completed between 1919 and 1923. After completing his last etching, The Balcony in 1928 and achieving success as an artist, Hopper focused on oils and watercolors. Admittedly, Hopper later recalled, "After I took up etching, my painting seemed to crystalize."

Though Hopper (1882-1967) claimed that his etchings, unlike his paintings, were not based on a specific observation or model (with the exception of House at Tarrytown), their styles are still based in realism with great emotional depth. Intimate, isolated, fleeting moments are conveyed by Hopper's deliberate burin on copper plates (he also made some dry points on zinc). Perhaps needing to express a more heightened moodiness in his prints through contrast, Hopper sought out the blackest ink on the market to be printed on stark white paper. He wrote to Zigrosser, "The best prints were done on an Italian paper called 'Umbria' and was the whitest paper I could get. The ink was an intense black that I sent for to Kimber in London, as I could not get an intense enough black here. I had heard so much of the beauty of old paper, but it did not give me the contrast and brilliance that I wanted, and I did not use it." Urban scenes, nocturnes, and train subjects, like in the current work, feature largely in Hopper's printed œuvre, a similarity with Martin Lewis, while coastal scenes and boats, which are rife in Hopper's paintings rarely make an appearance in his etchings, perhaps because they lend themselves to high contrast so easily. Not only did Hopper employ his materials for visual impact, but also used unusual vantage points, such as in Night Shadows (see lot 107), in which the scene is viewed from above. Lewis, who reached his stride by the time Hopper abandoned etching in 1928, drew on much of the same subject matter and a heightened sense of drama, qualities which went on to characterize the American Scene artists. Levin 87.