The Ivory Booth, 1897

Title: The Ivory Booth, 1897

Artist: Edward Hopper

Dimensions: 10" x 7" (20" x 17", framed)

Medium: Pen and ink on paper

Markings: Dated and inscribed



This drawing is a literal transcript of a specific person in an actual scene with a hint of underlying emotion drama. The theatrical nature of the image is underscored by the architectural design of the booth containing the young girl. The stage-set character of this structure with its parted side-curtains and proscenium-like opening suggest an intriguing story, which is not specifically revealed. Thus, the girl herself, who is positioned to display and sell a commercial product, takes on a secondary importance relative to her architectural setting. The diagonally positioned four-sided tent-like structure is positioned on a rectangular counter-topped base, also covered in fabric.

This structure is a variation on a Greek temple with its tile roofs, slender supporting columns and pediment with a laurel wreath above the ivory soap lettering. The laurel is symbolic of praise and in this case praise for the ivory soap product. The dramatic and romantic situation in which this sedate, Victorian-clad young woman is positioned serves to develop her as a character in a play, yet she remains an impersonal marionette in the elaborate theatrical setting. The luminous ambiance in which she sits points up the contrast to the mundane ordinariness of her own life, similar to the pensive solitary usherette in the lighted alcove of the dark theater in Hopper’s 1939 oil painting New York Movie. The darkest passages in the drawing take on a velvety surface quality, underscoring the tonal element, which is achieved through the precisely ordered linear hatchings. RPM


The artist until 1967; to his widow, Jo Hopper, until 1968; to private collection, until the present


Guaranteed by Hirschl & Adler Galleries, 21 East 70th St., New York, NY 10021