I can’t remember when I first got into Edward Hopper but I do remember how dumbfounded I was that I liked him. His paintings are quite classic and can be seen as boring due to the static compositions but now that I’m a little older and wiser I’ve realised that what I love about his work is the loneliness and introspection of them. What also awes me is how Edward is able to tell an entire story in such simplistic and clear imagery.
Automat, one of Hopper’s classics and most memorable paintings, illustrates my previous sentence perfectly. This is not just a woman in a café but a woman who’s waiting for her lover, a woman who was left alone in sadness, a woman who has come to this place to be alone and think about her life etc. Etc.
Even more illustrative for my point, but what I find personally lesser in quality, is Office Night. You can feel a certain tension between the boss and his secretary; maybe they had an affair and everything is over now? Maybe he has sexually harassed her? Maybe this, maybe that? I find that you can stare at Hopper’s paintings for a day and still would be able to go on watching and making up more and more stories. And I love it.
He once said: “The man’s the work. Something doesn’t come out of nothing.” This tells us how very personal his paintings are. Edward Hopper was a fundamentally lonely man and I needn’t tell you this if you’ve seen his paintings.
Nighthawks, the most iconic of all his works, tells us this perfectly. There are four characters in this story but all of them are quiet, all of them are caught up in their own personal world. None of them have eye-contact and they all seem a bit bored, just sitting there.
Sadly though, it took Edward quite some time to finally get his own style. I won’t get into the discussion about Hopper having some European influence or not because that’s a bore! However, I would like to point out some of his influences of European art and how his end-results… they simply suck.
Stairway at 48 rue de Lille (on the right), is from 1906 and was (supposedly) inspired by Xavier Mellery’s The Stairway (on the left). This might be because I simply adore Belgian Symbolism but I think Hopper’s painting compared to Mellery’s is dreadful. It’s quite clear that Xavier wins this competition. His drawing oozes mysticism, dread and tension while Hopper seems to say nothing. It’s just some stairs.
And then there’s this atrocity (sorry, Ed!):
Steps In Paris, 1906
Here, he was inspired by impressionism. Oh my! Why did you break my heart with this, Edward? Why? I’m glad he got back to America quite fast and tried to shake off our influence! Let’s look at some nicer things he has made in earlier years.
Night On the El-Train, 1918
Evening Wind, 1921
I think you can tell the first traces of Hopper’s later work in this. There is something quite mysterious about the wind blowing in the girl’s room, her being alone and staring out her window.
Night In The Park, 1921
Good, now I’m happy again.