Monday, March 3, 2014

Edward Hopper

Edward Hopper is considered to be one of America’s most influential mid-century painters because his art creates a unique vision of American modern life. His work ranges from oil paintings to watercolor and printmaking of rural and city landscapes and people. Born in upper New York in 1882, Hopper grew up wanting to be an artist, where he studied at the New York School of Art and Design and cited Eduoard Manet and Edgar Degas as his main influences. During the early 1900s when Hopper finished art school, like many artists in their early years, he struggled to make a living. However, he slowly broke through around the 1920s as more of his works received public recognition.

For example, this sketch above titled “Night on the El Train” (1918) is one of Hopper’s early works whose themes (couples in silence and solitude) are a precursor to those themes used in his later works.

This sketch above called “Evening Wind” (1921) is an example of one of Hopper’s early works of a nude model looking out of a window. He would have many paintings later on that explore the human figure and the theme of looking out of a window towards the horizon.

I first discovered Hopper when I was 12 years old, flipping through a book on famous American painters. The painting that caught my eye was not one of his most famous paintings, but it was interesting enough where it made me want to research his style more in depth.  

One of the aspects that I was fascinated about this painting above was the perspective and use of vibrant colors. There was also something about the use of space. This intersection feels incredibly large and is the opposite of the busy intersection you find today in New York for example. The second aspect I particularly liked was the whole mood of the painting. There is this emptiness and feeling of solitude, which is present in many of Hopper’s paintings. One of the ways he captures this is the sharp contrast in light and dark colors. The trees in the background are almost black compared to the bright, pastel colored buildings and gas station sign. The title of this painting is “Portrait of Orleans” (1950) and was painted in Orleans in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

This leads me to this painting, called “Gas” (1940). This is one of the more iconic Hopper paintings, which is encompasses the themes of loneliness, isolation and the borderline situation of American modernism and nature. The narrative expresses that the last car passed some time ago and the attendant is shutting down the pump for some amount of time. I view this painting as expressing the contrast between civilization and nature where this gas station seems to sit on the border between these two things, and the lonely country road is the only thing that connects these almost two separate realities.  The use of light and dark is very present in this painting. The light in the gas station is almost fluorescent and sort of hurts your eyes, while the road leads into this black darkness separating the gas station, a piece of human industrialization, from nature. Besides all of this commentary I have just written, I think it’s a pretty sweet painting.  


I can’t even begin to express how much I love this painting. I have a poster of it hanging up in my dorm, a poster of it hanging up in my room back home, and I’ve seen it in the Chicago Institute of Art multiple times. There are probably a thousand ways on how this painting can be interpreted because the themes are kind of ambiguous, but it is definitely the kind of painting that can be appreciated from a purely aesthetic and technical point of view. Oh yeah, it’s called “Nighthawks” and was completed in 1942.

This is a study drawing of “Nighthawks.” (Notice the use of contrast between the light of the inside of the building and the darkness of the outside)

There are dozens of other paintings by Edward Hopper that I appreciate, but the ones above indisputably my favorite. In summary, the reason why I am really interested in Hopper and appreciate his works is because of his finely calculated renderings of space, perspective and light and dark contrast.


Murhpy, Jessica. "Edward Hopper." Metropolitan Museum of Art. Metropolitan Museum of Art. Web. 3 Mar 2014. <>.

"Edward Hopper and His Paintings." Edward Hopper. Web. 3 Mar 2014. <>.

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