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Once Owned By Sinatra, Final Piece By American Painter Edward Hopper on Display in Manchester

Courtesy of the Currier Museum

A man and a woman, on an empty stage, are holding hands.

“They will take a bow, it will be their last curtain, they both know that they are at the ends of their, not only their careers, but their lives, and they will go off into this void,” explains Kurt Sundstrom, senior curator for the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester.

Two Comedians, the final painting made by Edward Hopper, directly addresses the artist’s impending death. Using oils, Hopper’s piece is sparse. There’s a dark background. The painter and his wife Josephine, herself an accomplished painter, are depicted in the classic white outfits of a clown.

“In a sense, he is saying that all the world is a stage. He’s participated in that environment, yet at the same time, he is exposing his personal life also, which he rarely did in his paintings,” says Sundstrom.

When he painted Two Comedians in 1966, the year before his death at 84, Hopper was already celebrated for his realistic, approachable depictions of modern American life.

Sundstrom says Two Comedians stays true to that style.

“So in a sense, these images a very timeless, and they are accessible to all. There is no one who is excluded from understanding a picture like this. They are all dealing with topics that we all deal with in life.”

Credit Courtesy
The Bootleggers, by Edward Hopper, is in the Currier's permanent collection.

The piece on is loan through January 2020 along with other works from the Currier’s permanent collection, including another Hopper painting, The Bootleggers, from 1925.

Two Comedians sold for $12.5 million last year at a Sotheby’s auction. While the new owner is remaining anonymous, a previous owner of the painting was no stranger to the stage.

“Frank Sinatra owned this painting for almost 20 years. I think we can understand why Frank Sinatra was drawn to this picture: this idea of the performer, the person who is always in the spotlight, who society is always trying to get something from,” says Sundstrom.

There’s no cheering audience depicted in the painting, however. Just a husband and wife, looking out on a world they were preparing to leave.

“I think it is beautifully painted. To me, when you learn about Hopper, and that this is his last painting, it touches you on an emotional and psychological level that most pictures do not.”

Todd started as a news correspondent with NHPR in 2009. He spent nearly a decade in the non-profit world, working with international development agencies and anti-poverty groups. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University.
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