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Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

Edward Hopper

Edward Hopper

Edward Hopper

Edward Hopper (1882 –  1967) was an American realist painter and printmaker. While he is best known for his oil paintings, he was equally proficient as a watercolourist and printmaker in etching. His spare but highly planned renderings reflected his vision of modern American life.

Hopper’s influence on the art world and pop culture is undeniable. Many artists have cited him as an influence, including Willem de Kooning, Jim Dine, and Mark Rothko. Hopper’s cinematic compositions and dramatic use of light and dark have made him a favourite among filmmakers.

In focusing primarily on quiet moments, very rarely showing action, Hopper employed a form of realism adopted by another leading American realist. Hopper shared his urban sensibility with John Sloan and George Bellows but avoided their overt action. Hopper reduced the monumental structures of our urban landscape to everyday geometrics, and he depicted the pulse of the city as desolate and potentially dangerous.

A Tour of Edward Hopper’s Art

  • Nighthawks
    • Nighthawks by Edward Hopper, depicts people in a downtown diner late at night. It is Hopper’s most famous painting and one of the most recognisable pictures in American art. A restaurant in Greenwich Village near Hopper’s neighbourhood in Manhattan, which has since been demolished, inspired the scene. Hopper said that a restaurant on Greenwich Avenue suggested the painting. He also stated that “I simplified the scene a great deal and made the restaurant bigger.” Hopper’s wife’s journal indicates that the painting’s title had its origins, as a reference to the shape of the men’s nose at the counter. Museum: Art Institute of Chicago

  • Edward Hopper’s American Realist Paintings
    • Gas
      • Gas by Edward Hopper depicts an American gas station at the end of a highway. This composition was a composite of several gas stations that Hopper inspected. Hopper struggled with this painting, and he had trouble finding suitable gas stations to paint. Hopper wanted to paint a gas station with the lights lit above the pumps, but the stations in his area only turned the lights on when it was pitch dark, to save energy. The light in this painting gives the scene of a gas station and its lone attendant at dusk, an underlying sense of drama. Hopper also captured the loneliness of an American country road which makes this picture memorable and leaves an impression with its combination of both natural and artificial light. According to Hopper’s wife, this gas station motif was something he had wanted to paint for a long time.Museum: Museum of Modern Art, NYC – MOMA

    • New York Interior
      • “New York Interior” by Edward Hopper depicts a girl framed in an apartment window or door sitting on her bed with her back to the viewer. She is sewing a length of white fabric spread out in her lap. She is only partly dressed, and we have been given a voyeuristic view for our unique interpretation. Is this a view from a passing train or another New York apartment? Is this a fleeting glimpse of an anonymous scene? Museum: Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

    • New York Restaurant
      • “New York Restaurant” by Edward Hopper depicts the rush hour at a restaurant with a man and his female companion sitting at a table. They are engaged in conversation and their meal, while the busy activity of the restaurant carries on around them. Hopper’s stated intention was: “to attempt to make visual the crowded glamour of a New York restaurant during the noon hour. I am hoping that ideas less easy to define have, perhaps, crept in also.” Hopper has expertly used light to express how light isolates the human figure in a room. Also, his use of light and shadow has given the restaurant shape and meaning. The viewer’s attention is led to the areas of light, independent of the human figures and objects in the composition. The waitress, her white uniform, the potted plant, a coat draped over a chair and another hanging in the foreground, while all noticeable, do not detract from the main subject of the work. Museum: Muskegon Museum of Art

Edward Hopper

A Tour of Artists and their Art

Edward Hopper Quotes

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“More of me comes out when I improvise.”

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“My aim in painting has always been the most exact transcription possible of my most intimate impression of nature.”

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“Painting will have to deal more fully and less obliquely with life and nature’s phenomena before it can again become great.”

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“In general, it can be said that a nation’s art is greatest when it most reflects the character of its people.”

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“No amount of skilful invention can replace the essential element of imagination.”

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“If you could say it in words, there would be no reason to paint.”

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“The question of the value of nationality in art is perhaps unsolvable.”

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“Great art is the outward expression of an inner life in the artist, and this inner life will result in his personal vision of the world.”

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“No amount of skilful invention can replace the essential element of imagination.”

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“I once got a little camera to use for details of architecture and so forth but the photo was always so different from the perspective the eye gives, I gave it up.”

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“The only real influence I’ve ever had is myself.”

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“There will be, I think, an attempt to grasp again the surprise and accidents of nature and a more intimate and sympathetic study of its moods, together with a renewed wonder and humility on the part of such as are still capable of these basic reactions.”

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“If the picture needs varnishing later, I allow a restorer to do that if there’s any restoring necessary.”

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“Maybe I am not very human – all I ever wanted to do was to paint sunlight on the side of a house.”

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“If I could say it in words, there would be no reason to paint”

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“So much of every art is an expression of the subconscious that it seems to me most of all the important qualities are put there unconsciously and little of importance by the conscious intellect. But these are things for the psychologist to untangle.”

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“After all, we are not French and never can be, and any attempt to be so is to deny our inheritance and to try to impose upon ourselves a character that can be nothing but a veneer upon the surface.”

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Reflections

  • Why is he one of the most recognisable artists in the U.S?
  • Why are there so many homages and parodies made of his most important paintings?

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“No amount of skilful invention can replace the essential element of imagination.”
– Edward Hopper

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Photo Credit: Harris & Ewing, photographer [Public domain]

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