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Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

Edward Hopper’s American Realist Paintings

American Realist Paintings by Edward Hopper's

“Gas” by Edward Hopper

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.

Gas

  • Title:                         Gas
  • Artist:                       Edward Hopper
  • Year:                        1940
  • Medium:                  Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions:             26 1/4 x 40 1/4″ (66.7 x 102.2 cm)
  • Museum:                 Museum of Modern Art, NYC – MOMA

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Edward Hopper's American Realist Paintings
“New York Interior” by Edward Hopper

“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?

New York Interior

  • Title:                        New York Interior
  • Artist:                      Edward Hopper
  • Year:                       1921
  • Medium:                 Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions:           W: 29.375 x H: 24.3125 in
  • Museum:                Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

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Edward Hopper's American Realist Paintings

“New York Restaurant” by Edward Hopper

“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, with 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.

Hopper was interested in creating an atmosphere, transcending the momentary, in which the occasion is on display. Instead of telling a story, the painting leaves the viewer to form their interpretation of the work.

New York Restaurant

  • Title:                        New York Restaurant
  • Artist:                      Edward Hopper
  • Year:                       1922
  • Medium:                Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions:           Height: 61 cm (24 ″); Width: 76.2 cm (30 ″)
  • Museum:               Muskegon Museum of Art

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 watercolorist and printmaker in etching. His spare and 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 favorite 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.

Edward Hopper

Reflections

  • Why are Hopper’s paintings the most recognizable paintings in U.S. art?
  • Why are there so many homages and parodies of Hopper’s painting?

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

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Photo Credit: Edward Hopper [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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