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Edward Hopper Paints His World

Edward Hopper Paints His World
Written by Robert Burleigh and Illustrated by Wendell Minor
Published in 2014 by Henry Holt
ISBN 978-0-8050-8752-9
Grades 2 and Up
Book Review
“Edward Hopper: Hero, Explorer, and Artist” is the subject of the newest picture book biography collaboration of author Robert Burleigh and illustrator Wendell Minor. This representation of the life and work of the iconic American artist transcends our expectations for biography for children. Burleigh’s text and Minor’s paintings immerse readers in the psyche of the introspective and solitary artist, prompting us to see buildings, people, and landscapes and light and shadow from new angles.  Beginning with a description of his early desire to capture the precise nature of “sunlight on the water’s rippling surface,” Burleigh describes Hopper’s unwavering commitment to “paint what others didn’t see,” – to pursue art with a style that spoke to him, rather than following the trend popular in the art world toward abstraction. An afterword, quotations from Hopper, reproductions of four of his paintings, important dates, references and an “Artist’s Note on the Images in this Books” comprise the helpful back matter. Perhaps most poignant is the concluding image of the text depicting across a double page spread: Hopper, his beloved Cape Cod landscape, and one of his last works, Sun in an Empty Room. The text and images beg reflection: “We see a room with light pouring through the window. Nothing more. All is calm. All is still.”
Teaching Ideas and Invitations
Grades 2 – 8
More About Edward Hopper. Following this introduction to Hopper’s life and art, provide students with additional resources to learn more about Hopper. Many of the websites linked below include images of Hopper’s paintings. Students may be particularly interested in the Smithsonian Institution’s An EdwardHopper Scrapbook. As students learn more about Edward Hopper, generate a list of questions that they have about Hopper, his life, and his place in American History. If time permits, students could break into small groups to conduct further research to answer these questions.
Light and Shadow. Hopper’s paintings celebrate light and shadow in the natural world. Invite students to study large projected images of his painting and to talk about the light and shadow that they notice. Read Look! Seeing the Light in Art by Gillian Wolfe as a launching point for further exploration of how artists represent light in their works of art. Collaborate with your art teacher to provide students with opportunities to paint or sketch their surroundings, paying careful attention to how light and shadow change at different times of day.
Place Inspires Art. Edward Hopper was a keen observer of his surroundings. He loved cityscapes and the countryside equally and spent a lifetime engaged in the process of representing what he saw. Take your students outside and provide them with materials to sketch and/or paint what they see in their community. Ask them to talk about what happens when we slow down and really “see” our surroundings. What did they notice? What did they think about? What did they seek to capture? Remind students that Hopper sometimes used his imagination to meld images when creating his paintings; these paintings captured an essence rather than a reality. For those students who wish to continue to refine their sketches or paintings provide time and space for this to happen and a forum to display and celebrate their finished works of art.
Art About Art. In an “Artist’s Note on Images in this Book,” Wendell Minor describes the challenge of representing the life and work of one of the “most important American artists of the twentieth century.” The idea of one artist representing the work of another is a fascinating and layered concept. Invite your students to consider what it means to re-create a work of art in a similar or different medium. Use additional picture book biographies of artists as examples (see the listing of Classroom Bookshelf entries below). Consider what it means to cross modalities. For example, to write a poem or a song in response to a painting? Finally invite students to select a favorite work of art and to create an original artistic work in response.
Author Study. Robert Burleigh’s biographies have received much attention and many starred reviews. Gather a collection of these titles and conduct an author study of Burleigh, focusing on his writing style and the themes and commitments that span his books and subjects. How does Burleigh use words to invoke strong emotional responses in readers? What can we learn about writing and the writing process from this author?
How Do We Express Ourselves?“Edward wanted his paintings to show what he saw, what he felt, and who he really was.” Invite your students to use visual media to portray an aspect of who they are. While this could be a very open ended task, a concrete way to begin would be to ask students to take a digital photograph of something that is deeply meaningful to them. After students have shared and discussed these images, collaborate with your art teacher to provide children with various materials to explore and re-present their image through art they create. Another angle to explore this question would be to invite students to bring in an artifact that represents their mode of self-expression. Encourage students to consider and identify the moments when they feel most like themselves, most grounded, and most confident. What activities inspire these feelings?
Picture Book Biographies of Artists. Before or after reading Edward Hopper Paints his World, read sections of Edward Hopper: Painter of Light and Shadow, a biography for middle grade readers that is illustrated with reproductions of Hopper’s paintings. Compare and contrast these two examples of the genre of biography. Invite students to consider the role that illustrations play in conveying the life story of the subject of a picture book biography. Follow this discussion with a genre study of the picture book biography, drawing on the resources provided by the entries in the Classroom Bookshelf that feature examples of the genre. 
Further Explorations
Online Resources
Author Robert Burleigh’s Website
Illustrator Wendell Minor’s Website
Edward Hopper House Art Center
New York Times: Cape Cod in Hopper’s Light
Smithsonian Institution: An Edward Hopper Scrapbook
Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History: Edward Hopper
Whitney Museum of American Art
MoMA: Edward Hopper
Rubin, S.G. (2007).  Edward Hopper, painter of light and shadow. New York: Abrams.
Venezia, M. (1990). Edward Hopper. [Getting to know the world’s greatest artists series.] Chicago, IL: Children’s Press.
Wolfe, G. (2006). Look! Seeing the light in art. London: Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.
Picture Book Biographies of Artists:
Bryant, J. (2013). A splash of red: The life and art of Horace Pippin. Ill. by M. Sweet. New York: Knopf
Hill, L.B. (2010). Dave the Potter: Artist, poet, slave. Ill. by Bryan Collier. New York: Little Brown.
Novesky, A. (2012). Georgia in Hawaii: When Georgia O’Keeffe painted what she pleased. Ill. by Y. Morales. New York: Harcourt.
Parker, M.B. (2012). Colorful dreamer: The story of artist Henri Matisse. Ill. by H. Berry. New York: Dial.
Rosenstock, B. (2014). The noisy paint box: The colors and sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art. Ill. by M. Grandpre. New York: Knopf.
Tonatiuth, D. (2011). Diego Rivera, His world and ours. New York: Abrams Books.

Erika Thulin Dawes About Erika Thulin Dawes

Erika is a professor of language and literacy at Lesley University. A former classroom teacher, reading specialist, and literacy supervisor, she now teaches courses in children’s literature, early literacy, and literacy methods. Erika is the co-author of Learning to Write with Purpose, Teaching with Text Sets, and Teaching to Complexity.