Edward Hopper first visited Gloucester in Massachusetts in 1912 looking for inspiration. Aged 30 at the time Hopper was struggling to be recognised as an artist, making a living through commercial illustration instead. It would be his paintings of the houses and architecture of the seaside port of Gloucester produced during his stays in the 1920's that would see his career take-off. Yet in those earlier paintings, mostly of the Italian Quarter which included Gloucester Harbor, his recognisable use of colour and shadow, his depiction of authentic America were to the fore.
Measuring 66.04cm x 71.12cm, Gloucester Harbor captured a scene now long gone with the modernisation of the fishing industry. It is an impressionist view that provides for the precision in the detail on the house in the foreground, while experimenting with light and shadow for the distant features. Gloucester attracted artists for the exceptional nature of its light, enhanced by the sea, and Edward Hopper would produce over 100 pieces from there. It was during this initial visit that he produced Squam Light, the first of his lighthouse depictions. Edward Hopper became more interested in the houses and buildings of the area then the people or landscape, journeying up by train from his New York home and studio to capture their image.
Edward Hopper would spend a number of summers in Gloucester during the 1920's painting the unfashionable Victorian mansions of the town while other artists headed to the waterfront. His Mansard Roof from 1923 helped to see his career begin to take off and is an example of the complex study of light and shadow that Hopper enjoyed painting. In that initial visit in 1912 Hopper produced paintings including Briar Neck, Tall Masts and The Italian Quarter covering a variety of scenes, although the architecture of the town was already prominent.
Gloucester Harbor is a strong representation of his work of the time. A realist painter, it showed his way in using colour, light and shade to create atmosphere and to display contrast.