Waldorf Astoria

Title: Waldorf Astoria

Artist: Edward Hopper

Dimensions: 5 3/4" x 4" (15 3/4" x 14", framed)

Medium: Pencil on paper



Before moving to midtown Manhattan in 1929, the first Waldorf Astoria Hotel was situated on Fifth Avenue and 34th Street, on the present site of the Empire State Building. William Waldorf Astor built the Hotel Waldorf in 1893 on the site of his mansion, which he had demolished to spite his overbearing aunt who lived next door. She responded by building the Astoria Hotel on her property in 1897, creating the Waldorf-Astoria. The two hotels were joined by connecting corridors and the joint hotel contained one thousand rooms. The Astoria Hotel rose seventeen stories to the Waldorf’s thirteen. Hopper’s early interest in the architecture of New York compelled him to faithfully record the hotel building in copious detail and this specific, identifiable view of the structure adds historical importance to the sheet. His fascination with architecture emerged from his youthful ambition of becoming a marine engineer. This geometric concern is very much in evidence throughout his long career as a painter. This drawing is a Hopper rarity in its depiction of an individual high-rise building. He more frequently depicted single houses, lighthouses, or broader cityscapes. The density of the geometric forms, which make up the mass of the building, recalls C├ęzanne’s hilltop towns of the 1880s, which he painted as a concentration of small rectilinear cubes and also Picasso’s cubist paintings of architecture. However, Hopper often imbues his buildings with personal qualities. The anthropomorphic aspect of the Waldorf Astoria is underscored by his articulation of the spindly ornate details of the three-story front tower. The decorative embellishments of the towers break the geometric repetitiveness of the rows of windows and enliven the sketch. RPM