Monday, July 23, 2007

Five best: lives of artists

Meryle Secrest, who has written biographies of Frank Lloyd Wright, Richard Rodgers and Salvador Dalí (among others), is the author of Shoot the Widow: Adventures of a Biographer in Search of Her Subject (Knopf, 2007).

She selected a five best "books which indelibly portray the lives of artists" list for Opinion Journal.

One title on the list:
Edward Hopper by Gail Levin (Knopf, 1995).

There is something about the work of Edward Hopper that uncannily evokes a decade. Look at "Nighthawks," his famous painting of a deserted street lit at night by a café, its inhabitants frozen on their bar stools. Once again it is the early 1940s. It took years for Hopper to refine his signature style, which infused seemingly innocent images, whether of small towns or of the Cape Cod landscapes he loved so much, with an inner intensity. Who he was, how he painted and why -- these matters are exhaustively explored by Gail Levin, who has written widely about Hopper and based her authoritative account of his life on the diary of his wife, Jo. Levin's analyses of Hopper's work are astute and telling. But ultimately any study of such an introspective personality can take us only so far. In the end, we have to return to the evidence of the work itself and to its reflection of a universal truth that Hopper understood -- that is, the essential loneliness of the human spirit.
Read about the other books on Secrest's list.

--Marshal Zeringue