Edward Hopper spent a lot of time in Maine. He painted on Monhegan Island several summers, and his paintings from Rockland, Portland, Cape Elizabeth and Ogunquit confirm a long-standing affection for the state.

As far as we know, Hopper never made it to Stonington. For someone whose history with Maine goes as deep as Hopper’s, it’s curious that he did not take the time to visit Maine’s most quintessential and authentic coastal community. Given his eye for architecture and his unsentimental approach to his work, no doubt he would have found Stonington’s sturdy buildings, winding village lanes and working waterfront appealing.

Nevertheless, Stonington celebrates its Hopper aesthetic this week.

A local gallery exhibits paintings and drawings by a Maryland artist who has rare access to Hopper’s Cape Cod studio, and Opera House Arts hosts a multi-media dance performance by the Bridgman|Packer dance troupe that is inspired by Hopper’s paintings.

“Hopper Round Stonington” begins at 5 p.m. Tuesday with a scavenger hunt for Hopper-esque architectural oddities. The event draws attention to Stonington’s commonality with the Hopper aesthetic, and includes a self-guided treasure hunt, refreshments and a sneak preview of “Voyeur” by Bridgman|Packer at 7 p.m.

The festival continues with performances of “Voyeur” at 7 nightly through Sunday at the Stonington Opera House and an exhibition of the paintings of Philip Koch at Isalos Fine Art, “Inside Edward Hopper’s World.” Koch will attend a reception from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday at the gallery, and his work will be on view through Sept. 2.

The Hopper festival will explore both the artist and his continuing influence on American culture, as well as Stonington’s Main Street architecture.

Hopper (1882-1967) was one of American’s most popular representational painters. Best known for his painting of a late-night diner, “Nighthawks” (1942), he thrived by painting archetypical American scenes. He painted both people and places, and often combined both elements in his work.

“Most Americans carry around Hopper’s imagery safely stored away in the back of their minds,” said Koch, who lives in Baltimore but has had the opportunity to paint in Hopper’s Cape Cod studio during the last 30 years. “He was good at capturing what is in the collective unconscious of Americans.” 

HE PAINTED WHAT HE KNEW

Hopper resisted most artistic trends, and stuck to what he knew best: Landscapes, people and urban scenes, including the intersection between human activity and built environments. In Maine, he painted the rocks of Monhegan, the Custom House in Portland and the Head Light lighthouse in Cape Elizabeth, as well as the lanes and cottages of Ogunquit.

He was an unsentimental painter who did not attempt to pull heartstrings. He used light, color and content to suggest moods and themes, but left to the viewer the task of drawing conclusions.

Stonington is a logical setting for the festival because of its Gothic-influenced architecture. Settled in the early 1800s, it’s a rugged community that was built on a hill sloping toward the harbor, and was built up beginning in the early 1900s.

“In looking at his paintings, we felt the sense of building and the way he portrayed architecture was a great way to talk about Hopper and his work,” said Linda Nelson, executive director of Opera House Arts.

Hopper came to Maine in 1916 at the urging of his teacher, Robert Henri, who introduced him to Monhegan. Had he come to Stonington instead, he would have found a bustling community of 5,000 people and a downtown with more than 40 stores, Nelson said.

Instead of looking inland as it does today, Stonington looked outward to the sea. The ocean served as a highway for immigration, culture and commerce, and was named for the quarries that provided its inhabitants with steady work.

Today, Stonington claims to be Maine’s busiest working waterfront, landing more lobsters than any other port. But its orientation is away from the water, toward the bridges that connect Deer Isle with mainland Maine.

Hopper would have loved it, Koch said. He would have found ample subjects to paint, just as many other artists have over the years. But he likely would have gone deeper than most, eschewing the obvious subjects for those with more subtle content.

Nelson said the scavenger hunt will encourage people to look closely at their community, and take stock of what they have and why it’s important and unique.

“The lines of our mansard roofs are of particular import, along with the 19th-century types of Gothic trim — not gingerbread, more New England understated — that are common in both Hopper’s paintings and in Stonington,” she said. “Additionally, our first-floor businesses are filled with the type of lonely plate glass commercial windows you see in or through in several Hopper paintings, as well as smaller, more abandoned, private-looking paned windows.”

Since 1983, Koch has had access to Hopper’s studio at South Truro on Cape Cod, where Hopper spent nearly 40 of his 84 summers. Koch is friends with the people who own the studio, and they offer him the chance to stay in Hopper’s bedroom and paint in his painting room. He has completed 14 residencies at the studio during the past three decades.

Koch calls Hopper his “greatest teacher,” and says it’s a rare privilege to pay homage to him by inhabiting his most personal space. The Stonington show includes 16 pieces, mostly paintings, of the interior of the Hopper’s studio and its environs. One drawing is from the beach just below the studio.

Hopper famously kept himself at arm’s length from people. While his boyhood home in New York is now open to the public, the Cape Cod studio remains private and largely undocumented. Koch’s paintings for “Inside Edward Hopper’s World” offer a small glimpse into that world.

They show mostly empty rooms, with light streaming in open windows and doors. Viewers see tables and chairs, and a few personal items: A table lamp, a tea kettle, a flower vase. But it’s mostly shadows, reflections and empty chairs. 

DANCERS SUGGEST HOPPER THEMES

Art Bridgman and Myrna Packer are equally influenced by Hopper, although their medium is movement.

A husband-and-wife team, Bridgman and Packer live in Valley Cottage, N.Y., which is next to Hopper’s boyhood home in Nyack. They’ve created a dance piece that uses video as part of its presentation.

“Voyeur” was co-commissioned by Portland Ovations and the Edward Hopper House Art Center in Nyack, and was presented in Portland last fall. Bates Dance Festival presented it earlier this month. It was created with a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, and received a National Dance Project Touring Award to help support the national tour.

The Stonington performance marks a rare chance for Down East audiences to see a National Dance Project of this caliber and technology, Nelson said. (In addition to “Voyeur,” Bridgman|Packer will also perform “Under the Skin.”)

For “Voyeur,” the company uses Hopper paintings as a departure point, incorporating a set made of hinged panels at various angles. It resembles the walls of a house, with windows, doors and exchange of light between the interior and exterior.

Projections of scenes filmed in and around Portland dance on the set, and live cameras capture the dancers’ movements to create a multi-media experience. The piece does not attempt to re-create Hopper paintings, but suggests themes that he raised in his work.

“Voyeur” has received national attention since its debut in Portland. The New Yorker called it “witty, sexual and surreal,” while The New York Times said it was “magical and fascinating.”

“Understanding Hopper’s work better means understanding ourselves better,” Koch said. “When you look at a good Hopper, it makes you feel more alive. He was able to make visible that which is invisible but within all of us.”

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or:

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Twitter: pphbkeyes