Edward Hopper’s 1937 Painting “French Six-day Bicycle Rider”

by Eric Shalit on August 1, 2010

Edward Hopper's 1937 painting "French Six-day Bicycle Rider"

Hopper biographer Gail Levin wrote: “February [1937] was fallow, but on March 5 he began French Six-day Bicycle Rider. The subject had been simmering since December of 1935 when Jo [Hopper’s wife] complained to Marion [Hopper’s sister] that Edward was going repeatedly to the bicycle races at Madison Square Garden, just to see the same scene over and over again. She was annoyed at the forty-cent tickets he indulged in, when, as she saw it, nothing came of it. At that time, he was stuck and unable to paint and she thought they could take a trip, perhaps to New Orleans, so he could work once again. It was one of the occasions when she simply misunderstood the often lengthy gestation periods that Hopper’s creative process required. Very little of Hopper’s time was actually spent painting.”

In later letters, Hopper described the painting’s subject matter: “I was unable to remember the name of the rider, only that he was young and dark and quite French in appearance. I did not attempt an accurate portrait, but it resembles him in a general way. He was I think a member of one of the last French teams to win a race at Madison Square Garden. He is supposed to be resting during the sprints while his team mate is on the track or at the time when `The Garden’ is full in the afternoon or evening, when both members of a team are on full alert to see that no laps are stolen from them.”

For an in-depth article about the painting and subject click here.

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