The “Martha McKeen” of Wellfleet

Edward Hopper

El

Hopper, Edward

Nyack, 1882 - Nueva York, 1967

The "Martha McKeen" of Wellfleet, 1944

© Edward Hopper, VAGA, NY, 2018

Signed lower right: ''Edward Hopper’'
Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection.

Oil on canvas

81,5 x 127,5 cm

CTB.1980.32

Artwork history

  • Frank K. M. Rehn Gallery, New York.

  • Harold Harris, Ellenville (NY).

  • Kennedy Galleries, Inc., New York.

  • Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Lugano, 1980.

    .

  • Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection.

1945

Painting in the United States-1945, Pittsburgh (PA), Museum of Art, Carnegie Institute, nº 295.

1946

33rd Annual Summer Exhibition, New York (NY), The Museum of Modern Art.

1946

Fifty-Sixth Annual Exhibition of Contemporary Art, Lincoln (NE), Nebraska Art Association, nº 58.

1947

Thirty Massachusetts Painters in 1947, Boston (MA), Institute of Modern Art, nº 24.

1948 - 1949

Third Annual Exhibition, San Francisco (CA), California Palace of the Legion of Honor.

1951

Thirteenth Annual Southeastern Circuit: Contemporary American Painting, Columbia (SC), Columbia Museum of Art, nº 16.

1964 - 1965

Edward Hopper, New York (NY), Whitney Museum of American Art; Chicago (IL), The Art Institute of Chicago; Detroit (MI), The Detroit Institute of Arts; San Luis (MO), City Art Museum of Saint Louis, nº 44.

1980 - 1982

Edward Hopper: The Art and the Artist, New York (NY), Whitney Museum of American Art; London, Hayward Gallery; Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum; Dusseldorf, Städtische Kunsthalle; Chicago (IL), The Art Institute of Chicago; San Francisco (CA), San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

1983

Maestri Americani della Collezione Thyssen-Bornemisza, Vatican City, Musei Vaticani, nº 102

1984

Maestri Americani della Collezione Thyssen-Bornemisza, Lugano, Villa Malpensata, nº 100.

1984 - 1986

American Masters: The Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Baltimore (MD), The Baltimore Museum of Art; Detroit (MI), The Detroit Institute of Arts; Denver (CO), Denver Art Museum; San Antonio (TX), Marion Koogler McNay Art Institute; New York (NY), IBM Gallery of Arts and Sciences; San Diego (CA), San Diego Museum of Art; Palm Beach (FL), The Society of the Four Arts, nº 102.

2000

Del post-impresionismo a las vanguardias. Pintura de comienzos del siglo XX en la Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, Valencia, IVAM Centre Julio González, nº 35, p. 118.

2000 - 2001

Edward Hopper, Tokyo, Bunkamura Museum of Art; Fukushima, Fukushima Prefectural Museum of Art; Hiroshima, Hiroshima Museum of Art; Ibaraki, The Museum of Modern Art, nº 71, pp. 112-113.

2005 - 2006

La mar de arte. Una travesía por la historia de la navegación a vela / Art galore. An exploration into the History of Sailing, Valencia, Institut Valencià d'Art Modern, p. 284.

2012

Hopper, Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, 48, illus. p. 127, 192.

2013

Sisley, Kandinsky, Hopper. Col·lecció Carmen Thyssen, Sant Feliu de Guíxols, Espai Carmen Thyssen, p. 96, illus. p. 97.

2015

Días de verano. De Sorolla a Hopper. Museo Carmen Thyssen Málaga, 2015. P. 154-155 & cover.

2020

Edward Hopper. A Fresh Look at Landscape. Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel. p. 72 & 143.

  • -Edward Hopper. New York, American artists group, 1945, illus. port.

  • -Goodrich, Lloyd: ”Portrait of the Artist’‘. In Woman’s Day. February, 1965, nº 29 , p. 37, illus.

  • -Goodrich, Lloyd: Edward Hopper. New York, Harry N. Abrams, 1971, p. 254, illus.

  • -Levin, Gail: ”Edward Hopper as Printmaker & Illustrator: Some Correspondences’‘. In The Print Collector´s Newsletter. September-October, 1979, nº 10 , p. 123.

  • -Levin, Gail: Edward Hopper. The Art and the Artist. [Exhib. Cat. New York, Whitney Museum of American Art; London, Hayward Gallery; Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum; Dusseldorf, Städtische Kunsthalle; Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago; San Francisco, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 1980-1982]. New York, W. W. Norton & Co. – Whitney Museum of American Art, 1980 , p. 49, p. 249.

  • -Edward Hopper: Das Frühwerk. Güse, Ernst-Gerhard and Borger-Keweloh, Nicola. [Exhib. Cat. Munich, Westfalisches Landesmuseum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte]. Münster, Landschaftsverband Westfalen-Lippe, 1981, nº 99.

  • -Levin, Gail: Edward Hopper. New York, Crown Publishers, Inc., 1984 , p. 69, 83, illus.

  • -Levin, Gail: The Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection. Twentieth-Century American Painting. London, Sotheby’s Publications, 1987, nº 67, pp. 208-209, illus.

  • -Levin, Gail: Edward Hopper. A Catalogue Raisonné. New York, Whitney Museum of American Art – W. W. Norton, 1995 , vol. 3, nº O-327, pp. 302-303, illus.

  • -Levin, G.: Edward Hopper. An Intimate Biography. New York, 1995, pp. 370, 371, 374 and 664.

  • -Del post-impresionismo a las vanguardias. Pintura de comienzos del siglo XX en la Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, Valencia, IVAM Centre Julio González, [Exhib. Cat. IVAM , Valencia], 2000, n. 35, p. 118.

  • -Edward Hopper, Tokio, Bunkamura Museum of Art; Fukushima, Fukushima Prefectural Museum of Art; Hiroshima, Hiroshima Museum of Art; Ibaraki, The Museum of Modern Art, [Exhib. Cat. Japan],  2000, n. 71, pp. 112-113.

  • -Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza. Arnaldo, Javier (ed.). 2 vols. Madrid, Fundación Colección Thyssen-Bornemisza, 2004, vol. 2, p. 444, illus. p. 445 [ Sheet by Gail Levin].

  • -La mar de arte. Una travesía por la historia de la navegación a vela / Art galore. An exploration into the History of Sailing, Valencia, Institut Valencià d’Art Modern, [Exhib. Cat. Valencia], 2005, p. 284.

  • -Alarcó, P. and Borobia, M. (eds.): Guía de la colección. Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, 2012, p. 400, illus.

  • -Hopper, Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, [Exhib. Cat. Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza], 2012, 48, lám. p. 127, 192.

  • -Sisley, Kandinsky, Hopper. Col·lecció Carmen Thyssen, Sant Feliu de Guíxols, Espai Carmen Thyssen, [Exhib. Cat. Espai Carmen Thyssen], 2013, p. 96, lám. p. 97.

  • -Días de verano. De Sorolla a Hopper. Museo Carmen Thyssen Málaga, [Exhib. Cat. Museo Carmen Thyssen Málaga], 2015. P. 154-55. Illust.

  • -Edward Hopper. A Fresh Look at Landscape. Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel. [Exhib. Cat. Fondation Beyeler. Texts: Doss E., Küster U., Lubin D.,  Rüppell, K.], Riehen / Basel, 2020, Ed. Ulf Küster, Fondation Beyeler. P. 72 & 143.

Expert report

Although, according to Jo Hopper’s notation in the record book, The “Martha McKeen” of Wellfleet represents a late August morning off Cape Cod and Hopper began this painting on 10 August, he did not complete the canvas until after he returned to New York in December 1944. Jo also recorded a subtitle, “Where Gulls Fill Their Gullets.” When Hopper was asked about the title of this painting by the publisher of a small monograph of his work, he responded emphatically: “I should like to retain the title ‘The Martha McKeen of Wellfleet’ if possible. The young lady that the picture is named after has taken us sailing in Wellfleet harbor so often that the title has a sentimental value for us and Martha McKeen also. The title was given purposely to please her and I think it would make her feel badly if it were to be changed. There is no vessel with this name as far as I know. It was named after our friend.”

Hopper was inspired to paint this and some of his other sailing pictures by sailing with Martha and Reggie McKeen of Wellfleet, a much younger couple. He had been forced to give up sailing on his own by Jo who thought it was too dangerous. While the canvas was in progress, the Hoppers also went to Provincetown so that he could study the gulls at a fish house on the railroad wharf. Jo felt that the man depicted at the tiller might be Hopper himself.

Ever since he built a catboat as a teenager, Hopper adored sailing. His love of solitude must have enhanced his enjoyment of sailing. He sketched numerous sailing boats as a boy in his hometown, Nyack, New York, a Hudson River port that had a shipbuilding industry during that time. The first painting he ever sold was Sailing the only work he exhibited in the famous New York Armory Show of 1913.

Although sailing boats appear in the oils he painted in Gloucester, the next action pictures occur in watercolour: The Dory, 1929 and Yawl Riding a Swell, 1935. The “Martha McKeen” of Wellfleet follows three other canvases of sailing scenes: The Long Leg, 1935; Ground Swell, 1939 and The Lee Shore, 1941. Each of these paintings utilises a horizontal strip of sky and sea, and sometimes land, parallel to the picture plane. Hopper’s only preparatory sketch for The “Martha McKeen” of Wellfleetreveals that he originally considered placing a standing figure near the mast rather than the two seated men seen in the final painting. His resolution is an impressive canvas with strong blue tonalities played off against the white sails and sand bar. Sunlight dramatises the entire composition and the gulls cast blue shadows. The action appears rather frozen in time but Hopper effectively captured the great strength of the sea and man’s momentary harmony with it.

Gail Levin