The Spectator

Many painters, either up-and-coming or already seasoned, chose spectators of theater as their subjects, which not only implies the massive appeal of theatergoing, but the varying perspectives of what American theater symbolized. They were places to socialize or escape the chaos of society, to feel the emotional greatness of the act in solitude or catchthe infection in the crowd. Although famous theaters were bustling during popular shows, the two painters in this exhibit have different interpretations of the spectator, as reflections of their own understanding of theater. The distinction offers a survey of artistic interpretation and explores the third part of the theater trinity, the crowd, and its role in the overall experience. Chapter 19 in Sister Carrie, Hurstwood watches Carrie perform on-stage and catches "the infection," from the spectacle of Carrie's passion, just after she catches it herself and performs with emotional greatness: "Hurstwood blinked his eyes and caught the infection. The radiating waves of feeling and sincerity were already breaking against the farthest walls of the chamber. The magic of passion, which will yet dissolve the world, was here at work."

Two notable contemporary painters of the first decade of the twentieth century, Edward Hopper and Everett Shinn, have only one thing in common, their fascination with theater, specifically the role of the spectator.


More galleries showing the work of these two painters:

Everett Shinn -

Edward Hopper -