Edward Hopper (1882-1967)
South Carolina Morning
Oil on canvas
Overall: 30 3/8 × 40 1/4 in. (77.2 × 102.2 cm)
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Given in memory of Otto L. Spaeth by his Family
Rights and Reproductions Information
© Heirs of Josephine N. Hopper, licensed by the Whitney Museum of American Art
From April 1 to May 11, 1929, Edward Hopper and his wife, Josephine Nivison Hopper, visited Charleston, South Carolina. During their trip to the surrounding countryside, the Hoppers encountered a woman who stood in front of her cabin but retreated indoors when her husband came home. Many years later, Hopper revisited this chance meeting in South Carolina Morning, the only painting in his oeuvre that depicts an African American woman. Here, she stands poised on the steps of a building surrounded by an austere slab of sidewalk, which is the only transitional element between the structure and a vast plain of sea grass that extends to the horizon. The inhospitality of the landscape is echoed by the protagonist’s defensively crossed arms and the building’s closed shutters. At the same time, however, the woman’s black heels, diaphanous red dress, and matching lipstick convey a sense of glamour and sexual invitation—their incongruity with her barren, rural surroundings infusing the scene with mystery and dramatic tension.