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Cyclists Commemorate Edward Hopper’s Love For Bicycles On His Birthday

Whitney Hopper Ride on July 22 Proves a Resounding Success in Honoring the Renowned Artist

On a picturesque summer day that seemed tailor-made for the occasion, nearly 100 cyclists gathered to celebrate Edward Hopper’s enduring fascination with bicycles on what would have been his 141st birthday. The Whitney Hopper Ride, a special event organized to pay homage to the iconic American artist, took participants on a scenic journey from the Whitney Museum of Modern Art in New York City through historical locations, culminating at the Edward Hopper House Museum in Nyack, followed by a return ride on a different route back to the Whitney Museum.

Riders at the Edward Hopper House Museum. Photo by Andrea Swenson.

The Ride’s Path and Highlights

Heading to Nyack. Photo fo Andrea Swenson.

The registered riders embarked on their journey from the Whitney Museum, known for housing the world’s largest collection of Hopper’s art. The Whitney Museum organized the ride in partnership with OutCycling, the Meatpacking Business Improvement District, and Edward Hopper House Museum. Cyclists set off on the Hudson River Greenway, crossed the George Washington Bridge, then traced a route reminiscent of Hopper’s youthful explorations in Bergen and Rockland Counties. As they neared Nyack, they traversed the very roads that a teenage Hopper once rode on his Crescent #9 bicycle, a cherished possession from 1897 that still holds a place of honor within the Edward Hopper House Museum.


The day’s event was not only a celebration of Hopper’s affinity for cycling during his formative years but also a tribute to his lifelong passion for the sport. Even in his fifties, Hopper continued to be drawn to the world of cycling, as evident in his lesser-known 1937 painting, the French Six-Day Bicycle Rider, inspired by his visits to the six-day bike races at Madison Square Garden.

β€œIt was great seeing so many people as passionate about riding as they are about Hopper’s work.” Peter Eatroff, OutCycling

Peter Eatroff, OutCycling

A Warm Welcome at Hoppers Birthplace

As the first riders reached the Edward Hopper House Museum at 9:38 am, they were greeted with enthusiasm. Others followed, with the majority arriving by 11 am. The riders were treated to a well-deserved break with refreshments, including water, fruits, PB&J sandwiches, pickles, and a specially prepared submarine sandwich lunch. Adding to the festivities, a ceremonial Hopper birthday cake was cut in front of the assembled riders, and each participant received a unique Hopper-themed birthday cookie.

Beginning of the tour on the front porch. Photo by Andrea Swenson

The highlight of the visit to the Edward Hopper House Museum was a special museum mini-tour, conducted in small groups. During the tour, participants were captivated by stories about cycling in the 1890s, as they bonded with Hopper’s prized bicycle. The tour also provided the opportunity to view Hopper’s bedroom, famed for its iconic morning light, fostering a deeper appreciation for the artist’s connection to cycling.

The Journey Back and Fond Memories

Hopper’s Birthday cake. Photo by Andrea Swenson

After relishing the charming hospitality at the Hopper House, the cyclists completed their circuit, crossing the Hudson River once again via the Tappan Zee Bridge and then down the South County Trailway on their way back to the Whitney Museum. The ride was nothing short of a trifecta for many participants: ideal weather, a memorable cycling experience, and a chance to celebrate the enduring legacy of Edward Hopper.

Edward Hopper’s Beloved Bicycle

The late 19th century witnessed a cycling craze, with the advent of the safety bike leading to a surge in its popularity among men, women, and children. Edward Hopper, standing tall at six feet at age 11 and nicknamed “grasshopper,” was among the avid cyclists of his time. His childhood sketches, now preserved in the Whitney Museum archives, often depicted bike riders, bike shops, and even himself, stranded with a flat tire miles away from home.

Riders with Edward Hopper’s bike

The Edward Hopper House Museum, once in jeopardy of demolition, was saved by devoted preservationists after the passing of Edward Hopper and his sister Marion, who had no heirs. In the museum’s basement, Hopper’s treasured bicycle, a Crescent Model 9 crafted in 1897 by the Western Wheel Works in Chicago, was discovered. With its racing design, the bike was built for speed, boasting a tall frame to accommodate Hopper’s stature, backward handles to elongate the body’s position, and toe cages on the pedals for maximum speed.

The wooden wheel rims of the bike evoke the bygone era, as metal rims did not appear until the 1920s. While the bike has aged over 125 years, it remains an invaluable artifact, proudly displayed in a room filled with Hopper’s childhood mementos.

The Painting: The French Six-Day Bicycle Rider

Inspired by the enthralling six-day bike races at Madison Square Garden, Hopper’s 1937 painting showcases the artist’s signature selective realism and restrained emotions. Capturing the essence of France, a country Hopper held dear after multiple visits in his twenties, the painting centers around a resting rider, representative of the artist himself, gazing pensively towards the racetrack. The assistant pulling back the sleeping cabin’s curtain adds to the painting’s intrigue.

Hopper’s French Six-Day Bicycle Rider

The Whitney Hopper Ride: An Immersive Experience

The Whitney Hopper Bike Ride seamlessly merged two cherished aspects of Edward Hopper’s life: cycling and art. By retracing Hopper’s cycling routes and offering a glimpse into the artist’s childhood home, the ride allowed participants to step into the shoes of one of America’s most celebrated artists from the 20th century. the event concluded with pizza and branded water bottles at the Whitney Museum.

Ride Director Allan Friedman and Kim Conaty, Whitney’s Steven and Ann Ames Curator of Drawings and Prints. Photo by Andrea Swensen(AS)

Ride Director and participant Allan Friedman of OutCycling summed up the sentiment aptly, declaring the Whitney Hopper Ride and Edward Hopper House Museum as hidden gems that are worth revisiting often.

β€œI look forward to doing this again.” Allan Friedman

Allan Friedman

As cyclists and art enthusiasts came together on this memorable occasion, they paid tribute to the timeless allure of Edward Hopper and his enduring fascination with bicycles. The Whitney Hopper Bike Ride stands as a testament to the artist’s indelible mark on American culture and the lasting impact of his boyhood passion for cycling.

Leaving the Edward Hopper House Museum

Photography

Photography by Andrea Swenson, Fred Hoder, & Sarah May Guenther

Michael Hays is a 35-year resident of the Nyacks. Hays grew up the son of a professor and nurse in Champaign, Illinois. He has retired from a long career in educational publishing with Prentice-Hall and McGraw-Hill. Hays is an avid cyclist, amateur historian and photographer, gardener, and dog walker. He has enjoyed more years than he cares to count with his beautiful companion, Bernie Richey. You can follow him on Instagram as UpperNyackMike.

Nyack People & Places, a weekly series that features photos and profiles of citizens and scenes near Nyack, NY, is brought to you by Sun River Health.




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