Edward Hopper (July 22, 1882 – May 15, 1967) was an American painter and printmaker. While most popularly known for his oil paintings, he was equally proficient as a watercolorist and printmaker in etching.
Upon completing his formal education, Hopper made three trips to Europe, each centered in Paris, to study the emerging art scene there, but unlike many of his contemporaries who imitated the abstract cubist experiments, the idealism and detail of the realist painters resonated with Hopper. His early projects reflect the realist influence with an emphasis on colour and shape. Eschewing the usual New England subjects of seascapes or boats, Hopper was attracted to Victorian architecture, although it was no longer in fashion. According to Boston Museum of Fine Arts curator Carol Troyen, "He really liked the way these houses with their turrets and towers and porches and mansard roofs and ornament cast wonderful shadows. He always said that his favorite thing was painting sunlight on the side of a house."
While he worked for several years as a commercial artist, Hopper continued painting with moderate success yet not as much as he wanted. He sold a variety of small prints and watercolors to tourists and minor publications yet received only a casual if warm response from curators and gallery owners.
According to Troyen, Hopper's "breakthrough work" was The Mansard Roof, painted in 1923 during Hopper's first summer in Gloucester, MA. His former art school classmate and later wife, Josephine Nivison Hopper, suggested he enter it in the Brooklyn Museum annual watercolor show, along with some other paintings. The Mansard Roof was purchased by the museum for its permanent collection, for the sum of $100.
In 1925 he produced House by the Railroad, a classic work that marks his artistic maturity. The piece is the first of a series of stark urban and rural scenes that uses sharp lines and large shapes, played upon by unusual lighting to capture the lonely mood of his subjects. He derived his subject matter from the common features of American life — gas stations, motels, the railroad, or an empty street — and its inhabitants.
Hopper continued to paint in his old age, dividing his time between New York City and Truro, Massachusetts. He died in 1967, in his studio near Washington Square, in New York City. His wife, painter Josephine Nivison, who died 10 months later, bequeathed his work to the Whitney Museum of American Art. Other significant paintings by Hopper are at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, The Des Moines Art Center, and the Art Institute of Chicago.
Though Hopper's works are very accessible, he was seen, often, as extremely alienated since he had given up commercial illustration to dedicate his professional life to painting.
The most well known of Hopper's paintings, Nighthawks (1942), shows customers sitting at the counter of an all-night diner. The diner's harsh electric light sets it apart from the dark night outside, enhancing the mood and subtle emotion of the painting. The painting conveys the elements of confinement and isolation. One critic, Walter Wells, sees in the picture the influence of Ernest Hemingway's story, "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place," both picture and story representing a "sanctuary against the ultimate night [i.e. death] in a world without God or spiritual solace."
Hopper's rural New England scenes, such as Gas (1940), are no less meaningful. "Gas" represents "a different, equally clean, well-lighted refuge.... ke[pt] open for those in need as they navigate the night, traveling their own miles to go before they sleep." Brilliant sunlight (as an emblem of insight or revelation), and the shadows it casts, also play symbolically powerful roles in Hopper paintings such as "Early Sunday Morning" (1930), "Summertime" (1943), "Seven A.M." (1948), and "Sun in an Empty Room" (1963).
In terms of subject matter, Hopper can be compared to his contemporary, Norman Rockwell. Hopper's work exploits empty spaces, represented by a gas station astride an empty country road and the sharp contrast between the natural light of the sky, moderated by the lush forest, and glaring artificial light coming from inside the gas station. Most of Hopper's paintings have a concentration on the subtle interaction of human beings with their environment and with each other. Like stills for a movie or tableaux in a play, Hopper positions his characters as if they have been captured just before or just after the climax of a scene
Chief works of Edward Hopper (oil on canvas unless otherwise noted):
|Painter and Model||1902-1904||Whitney Museum of American Art||painter, woman, nude, canvas|
|Bridge in Paris||1906||Whitney Museum of American Art||Paris, bridge|
|Le Pont des Arts||1907||Whitney Museum of American Art||Seine, bridge, Louvre|
|Après-midi de juin||1907||Whitney Museum of American Art||Louvre, Seine, bridge|
|Les lavoirs à Pont Royal||1907||Whitney Museum of American Art||Seine, wash-house, bridge|
|Louvre and Boat Landing||1907||Whitney Museum of American Art||Louvre, Seine, pier|
|The El Station||1908||Whitney Museum of American Art||station, tracks|
|Summer Interior||1909||Whitney Museum of American Art||woman, room, bed, nude|
| The Louvre in a|
|1909||Whitney Museum of American Art||Louvre, Seine, bridge, boats|
|Le Pont Royal||1909||Whitney Museum of American Art||Louvre, Seine, bridge|
|Le Quai des Grands Augustins||1909||Whitney Museum of American Art||bridge, street, building|
|Le pavillon de Flore||1909||Whitney Museum of American Art||Louvre, Seine|
|The Wine Shop||1909||Whitney Museum of American Art||bistro, bridge, couple|
|American Village||1912||Whitney Museum of American Art||street, house, cars|
|Squam Light||1912||lighthouse, houses, boats|
|Queensborough Bridge||1913||Whitney Museum of American Art||New York, bridge|
|Soir bleu||1914||Whitney Museum of American Art||clown, couple, woman, cigarettes|
|Road in Maine||1914||Whitney Museum of American Art||Maine, nature, road|
|Blackhead, Monhegan||1916-1919||Whitney Museum of American Art||Maine, landscape, sea|
|Stairways||1919||Whitney Museum of American Art||stairs, door, woods|
|Night Shadows (etching)||1921||Museum of Modern Art||man, street, night, building|
|The New York Restaurant||c. 1922|| Muskegon Art Museum|
|restaurant, couple, woman|
|Railroad Crossing||1922-1923||Whitney Museum of American Art|| train tracks, road,|
|The Mansard Roof (watercolor)||1923||Brooklyn Museum||house, trees|
|The Locomotive (etching)||1923||Hirschl & Adler||train tracks, men, tunnell|
|House by the Railroad||1925||Museum of Modern Art||train tracks, house|
|Self-Portrait||1925-1930||Whitney Museum of American Art||self-portrait|
|Sunday||1926|| Phillips Collection|
|man, street, buildings|
|Drug Store||1927||Museum of Fine Arts, Boston||pharmacy, night, street|
|Lighthouse Hill||1927||Dallas Museum of Art||lighthouse, house, hill|
|Coast Guard Station||1927||Montclair Art Museum||house|
|Automat||1927||Des Moines Art Center|| woman, café, window,|
night, fruit, radiator
|The City||1927||University of Arizona Museum of Art||city, streets, buildings|
|Night Windows||1928||Museum of Modern Art|| night, window,|
|Manhattan Bridge Loop||1928|| Addison Gallery of|
|New York, tracks, lamp-post|
|Railroad Sunset||1929||Whitney Museum of American Art||train tracks, landscape, twilight|
|The Lighthouse at Two Lights||1929||Metropolitan Museum of Art||lighthouse, house|
|Chop Suey||1929||Barney A. Ebsworth Collection|| café, women, couple,|
|Early Sunday Morning||1930||Whitney Museum of American Art|| street, buildings,|
|Tables for Ladies||1930||Metropolitan Museum of Art|| restaurant, women,|
| Corn Hill|
(Truro, Cape Cod)
|1930|| McNay Art Institute,|
|Cobb's Barns, South Truro||1930-1933||Whitney Museum of American Art||barn, landscape, hills|
| New York, New Haven|
|1931||Indianapolis Museum of Art||train tracks, houses, trees|
|Hotel Room||1931||Fondation Thyssen-Bornemisza|| hotel, room, bed,|
|Dauphinée House||1932||ACA Galleries||train tracks, house|
|Room in New York||1932|| Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery|
and Sculpture Garden
|hotel, couple, reading, table|
|House at Dusk||1935||Virginia Museum of Fine Arts|| building, woman, trees,|
|The Long Leg||1935||The Huntington Library Collection|| sailboat, sea, dunes,|
|Macomb's Dam Bridge||1935||Brooklyn Museum|| bridge, river,|
|The Circle Theater||1936||Private collection|| theatre, street, building,|
|Cape Cod Afternoon||1936|| Museum of Art,|
|Cape Cod, houses|
| Compartiment C,|
|1938||IBM Corporation Collection||train, woman, reading, bridge|
|New York Movie||1939||Museum of Modern Art|| New York, cinema,|
|Cape Cod Evening||1939|| National Gallery of Art,|
|Cape Cod, couple, dog, house, woods|
|Ground Swell||1939||Corcoran Gallery of Art|| boat, sea, swell,|
|Gas||1940||Museum of Modern Art||gas station, man, woods, road|
|Office at Night||1940||Walker Art Center (Minneapolis)||desk, woman, man, window|
|Nighthawks||1942||Art Institute of Chicago|| bar, woman, men,|
|Dawn in Pennsylvania|| Terra Museum of|
|train tracks, train, buildings|
|Hotel Lobby||1943||Indianapolis Museum of Art||hotel, couple, woman, reading|
|Summertime||1943||Delaware Art Museum||woman, building, windows|
|Solitude||1944||Private collection||house, woods, road|
|Morning in a City||1944||Williams College Museum of Art|| woman, nude, room,|
bed, window, city
|Rooms for Tourists||1945||Yale University Art Gallery||house, night|
|August in the City||1945|| Norton Gallery of Art|
West Palm Beach
|Summer Evening||1947||Private collection||couple, night, house|
|Pennsylvania Coal Town||1947|| Butler Institute of|
American Art, Youngstown OH
|house, stairs, man|
|Seven AM||1948||Whitney Museum of American Art||morning, woods, house|
|Noon||1949||Dayton Art Institute||house, woman|
|Conference at Night||1949||Wichita Art Museum|| woman, men,|
|Cape Cod Morning||1950||National Museum of American Art||Cape Cod, woman, house, woods|
|Rooms by the Sea||1951||Yale University Art Gallery||rooms, sea, door|
|Morning Sun||1952||Columbus Museum of Art|| woman, room, bed,|
|Hotel by a Railroad||1952||Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden|| room, couple, window,|
|Sea Watchers||1952||Private collection||couple, sea, house, wind|
|Office in a Small City||1953||Metropolitan Museum of Art||desk, man, window, buildings|
|South Carolina Morning||1955||Whitney Museum of American Art||woman, house|
|Hotel Window||1956||The Forbes Magazine Collection||hotel, window, woman, city|
|Four Lane Road||1956||Private collection|| couple, gas station, road,|
|Western Motel||1957||Yale University Art Gallery|| hotel, car,|
|Sunlight in a Cafeteria||1958||Yale University Art Gallery|| café, woman, man,|
|Excursion into Philosophy||1959||Private collection|| couple, room|
|Second Story Sunlight||1960||Whitney Museum of American Art||couple, reading, house, woods|
|People in the Sun||1960|| National Museum of American Art|
| landscape, reading, men,|
women, road, sun
|A Woman in the Sun||1961||Whitney Museum of American Art|| woman, nude, window,|
|New York Office||1962||Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts||New York, desk, woman, window|
|Intermission||1963||Private collection||woman, armchair|
|Sun in an Empty Room||1963||Private collection||room, window, woods|
|Chair Car||1965||Private collection||woman, reading|
|Two Comedians||1965||Private collection||couple, costumes, theatre|
In 2004, a large selection of Hopper's paintings toured through Europe, visiting Cologne, Germany and Tate Modern in London. The Tate exhibition became the second most popular in the gallery's history, with 420,000 visitors in the three months it was open.
In 2007, an exhibition focusing on the period of Hopper’s greatest achievements—from about 1925 to mid-century— was under way at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. The exhibit comprises fifty oil paintings, thirty watercolors, and twelve prints, including the favorites Nighthawks, Chop Suey, and Lighthouse and Buildings, Portland Head, Cape Elizabeth, Maine. The exhibition was organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the National Gallery of Art , Washington, The Art Institute of Chicago and sponsored by the global management consulting firm, Booz Allen Hamilton.
Hopper's cinematic, wide compositions and dramatic use of light and dark has also made him a favorite among filmmakers. For example, House by the Railroad is said to have heavily influenced the iconic house in the Alfred Hitchcock film Psycho. The same painting has also been cited as being an influence on the home in the Terrence Malick film Days of Heaven.
In 1993, Madonna was inspired sufficiently by Hopper's 1941 painting, "Girlie Show", that she named her upcoming world tour after it and incorporated many of the theatrical elements and mood of the painting into the show.
In 2004 British guitarist John Squire (formerly of The Stone Roses fame) released a concept album based on Hopper's work entitled Marshall's House. Each song on the album inspired by, and sharing its title with, a painting by Hopper.
Canadian rock group The Weakerthans released their album Reunion Tour in 2007 featuring two songs inspired by and named after Hopper paintings, "Sun in an Empty Room", and "Night Windows", and has also referenced him in songs such as "Hospital Vespers".
Each of the 12 chapters in New Zealander Chris Bell's 2004 novel Liquidambar (UKA Press/PABD) interprets one of Hopper's paintings to create a surreal detective story.
Hopper's influence reached the Japanese animation world in the dark cyberpunk thriller Texhnolyze. Hopper's artwork was used as the basis for the surface world in Texhnolyze.