The etching from 1923 was part of a planned edition of 100, although it is unknown how many were actually produced. The number was likely significantly smaller than the intended run.
Records indicate that only four impressions of The Lonely House have emerged at auction in the last 30 years.
This example was printed in black on cream wove paper and measured 8 x 10in (21.5 x 26cm). It was signed in pencil and was richly inked with strong contrasts – making it a highly desirable copy of one of the most scarce Hopper prints.
The last impression on the market was the copy at Sotheby’s New York in April 2012 which made a premium-inclusive $230,500. This sum may have led to Swann estimating its copy at $150,000-200,000 for the auction on November 2.
On the day, it drew a strong competition which carried it over the top estimate before it sold to a bidder on the phone. The $260,000 (£198,475) price was not only a record for a Hopper print but also the highest-ever price for an etching sold at Swann Galleries.
The work itself, depicting two children playing in front of a house, is typical of Hopper’s prints from his earlier period with its sparse composition and sense of isolation. It is said to foreshadow his mature style which was fully developed by the time he painted his famous 1925 oil on canvas House by the Railroad, a work now in The Museum of Modern Art in New York.
As well as The Lonely House, the Swann auction also offered two further prints by Hopper that both found buyers, including an even earlier work, Les Poilus, a rare etching of French infantrymen from 1915-18 that made $34,000 (£25,950) against a $15,000-20,000 estimate – also a record price for this particular print.
Elsewhere in the sale, a first edition copy of Francisco José de Goya’s Los Caprichos from c.1799 sold at $85,000 (£64,885) against a $70,000-100,000 estimate. The bound volume lacked only one of the 80 etchings which notoriously lampooned the Spanish aristocracy and clergy and was one of only approximately 300 copies of the first edition produced, before Goya withdrew the series from sale for fear of retribution.
£1 = $1.31