It’s American artist Edward Hopper’s birthday today (b. 1882 -1967). He came from a well off Middle class family. His teachers were William Merrit Chase the impressionist and also John Sloan and Robert Henri. Sloan and Henri were two of the ‘Eight’ or ‘Ashcan school of American art. The Ashcan painters depicted realistic aspects of American urban life, usually of the poorer neighbourhoods. Although Hopper borrowed from their subject matter, he wasn’t a member of the Ashcan school, preferring to go his own way.
Hopper was also a print maker, before his career took off he produced some posters for the War effort. He also worked as a freelance illustrator, but became disheartened by the work.
He alternated between a dark and light palette. His subject matter inspired by theatre and film, also included city skyscapes, cafe’s, railways, hotel rooms: anywhere life could unfold or could simply just ‘be’
There is always a sense of voyeurism when looking into one of Hopper’s paintings. He controls the scene. His use of heightened colour and the way he uses diagonals direct your gaze and sets the scene to let the drama (usually inner) unfold. His use of light and shade sets the mood, especially the way sunlight contrasts with shadow as seen in Early Sunday Morning. City scapes and urban architecture were always a source of inspiration to Hopper.
In Nighthawks, the couple at the counter are Hopper himself and his wife Jo. The restaurant is said to be inspired by one in Greenwich Village where Hopper lived. There is a sense of conspiracy, but what is going on? Whatever it is, I get the feeling something is being plotted, something furtive or secret is being discussed. Of course this is only my own personal opinion.
I feel that the 1954 Alfred Hitchcock film ‘Rear Window’ has an affinity with Edward Hopper’s art. A bored journalist (James Stewart) is convalescing in his apartment from an accident. To while away his time, he spies on his neighbours with a telescope (getting more than he bargains for…). Each window he looks at provides the frame for a vignette of a individual neighbours life. The view of course is male, like the artist and the story of each neighbour is observed from the journalist’s viewpoint and his conjecture. There are certain things he can’t see……. including his girlfriend – until it’s nearly too late (but that’s another story..)
Rear Window info HERE
Hopper’s life story HERE