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Tuesday, February 11, 2014


President Barack Obama looks at the Edward Hopper paintings now displayed in the Oval Office, Feb. 7, 2014. The paintings are Cobb's Barns, South Truro, top, and Burly Cobb’s House, South Truro.                                                       (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

GUEST BLOG--By William G. Allman—The White House Blog--Two paintings by Edward Hopper (1882–1967), widely recognized as one of the most significant artists of the 20th century, were hung in the Oval Office February 7, 2014. Titled “Cobb’s Barns, South Truro,” and “Burly Cobb’s House, South Truro” -- oil on canvas works painted in 1930-33 on Cape Cod -- have been lent by the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the world’s largest repository of Hopper’s works.

Before building a house on Cape Cod in 1934, Hopper and his wife rented a hillside cottage for four summers. From that house, Hopper executed a series of paintings and drawings of the buildings on their landlord’s farm below, exploring the structures from several angles and at different times of the day.

Emblematic examples of his work, the two paintings lent by the Whitney Museum capture the strong sense of atmosphere and light as well as the empty stillness that characterize much of Hopper’s imagery. They also demonstrate Hopper’s fascination with the various forms of this country’s vernacular architecture -- a subject he would return to again and again, resulting in some of the most enduring images of American art.

The Hopper paintings, hung one over the other at the southeast side of the room, add to the breadth of American paintings represented in the Oval Office today:

“George Washington” by Rembrandt Peale, c.1823
“Abraham Lincoln” by George Henry Story, c.1915 (from life studies painted in 1861)
“The Three Tetons” by Thomas Moran, 1895
“The Avenue” in the Rain by Childe Hassam, 1917
“Statue of Liberty” by Norman Rockwell, 1946

All five of these works belong to the permanent White House collection, which does not include any works by Edward Hopper. Another notable change to the items hanging in the Oval Office is the removal of a rare printed copy of the Emancipation Proclamation signed by President Abraham Lincoln. As a document on paper, it needed prolonged rest from further exposure to light. As a loan to the White House, its preservation required its removal.

* Information about Hopper and Cobb’s Barns, South Truro, and Burly Cobb’s House, South Truro was provided by the Whitney Museum of American Art.

William G. Allman is Curator of the White House.


“The Three Tetons” was painted by Thomas Moran (1837-1926), a 19th century painter and printmaker from New York.

The Oval Office also exhibits a Frederic Remington (1861-1909) sculpture “Bronco Buster, 1895” and “Statue of Liberty” by Norman Rockwell.   The Rockwell painting also appeared on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post.

Shimon Peres, 90-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner and current President of Israel, sits with President Obama in the Oval Office beneath the 1825 painting of George Washington by Remington Peale (1778-1860).
“The Avenue in the Rain,” 1917, is by Childe Hassam (1858-1935), a leading American impressionist artist. 

President Obama admires the painting of “Abraham Lincoln” by George Henry Story (1835-1922) now hanging in the Oval Office.  Story was a past curator of paintings at the Metropolitan Art Museum.

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