The 10 Most Famous Artworks of Edward Hopper
Artworks include Nighthawks, Chop Suey, and House by the Railroad...
Edward Hopper (July 22, 1882 – May 15, 1967) was an American realist painter and printmaker. While he is widely known for his oil paintings, he was equally proficient as a watercolorist and printmaker in etching. His career benefited decisively from his marriage to fellow-artist Josephine Nivison, who contributed much to his work, both as a life-model and as a creative partner.
Hopper was a minor-key artist, creating subdued drama out of commonplace subjects ‘layered with a poetic meaning’, inviting narrative interpretations, often unintended. He was praised for ‘complete verity’ in the America he portrayed.
niood lists the 10 Most Famous Artworks of Edward Hopper:
Edward Hopper said that Nighthawks was inspired by “a restaurant on New York’s Greenwich Avenue where two streets meet,” but the image—with its carefully constructed composition and lack of narrative—has a timeless, universal quality that transcends its particular locale. One of the best-known images of twentieth-century art, the painting depicts an all-night diner in which three customers, all lost in their own thoughts, have congregated. Hopper’s understanding of the expressive possibilities of light playing on simplified shapes gives the painting its beauty. Fluorescent lights had just come into use in the early 1940s, and the all-night diner emits an eerie glow, like a beacon on the dark street corner. Hopper eliminated any reference to an entrance, and the viewer, drawn to the light, is shut out from the scene by a seamless wedge of glass. The four anonymous and uncommunicative night owls seem as separate and remote from the viewer as they are from one another. (The red-haired woman was actually modeled by the artist’s wife, Jo.) Hopper denied that he purposefully infused this or any other of his paintings with symbols of human isolation and urban emptiness, but he acknowledged that in Nighthawks “unconsciously, probably, I was painting the loneliness of a large city.”
Chop Suey (1929), the most iconic painting by Hopper left in private hands, epitomises the psychological complexity for which his work is celebrated, freezing in place an everyday scene from an America that was changing rapidly.
Hopper’s restaurant paintings reflect the shifting role and view of American women in the late 1920s. Chop suey joints were spaces where the new female workforce was welcome — indeed, the woman facing the viewer is the painting’s focal point. But rather than basking in the light streaming in from the restaurant window, she appears pensive, avoiding eye contact with either the viewer or her companion.
A late-afternoon glow pervades Hopper’s House by the Railroad, which features a grand Victorian home, its base and grounds obscured by the tracks of a railroad. The tracks create a visual barrier that seems to block access to the house, which is isolated in an empty landscape. The juxtaposition of the house and the railroad tracks may be read as a confrontation between the fixity of tradition and the possibility of mobility in early-twentieth-century America. At the same time, these effects evoke the quiet yet charged atmosphere that would become a hallmark of this artist’s work.
Hopper produced closely observed urban views, landscapes (largely of New England), and interior scenes—all sparsely populated with figures or devoid of them entirely. Although he insisted that his paintings were straightforward representations of the real world, they are often filled with an unmistakable sense of loneliness, estrangement, stillness, and mystery. Light, whether natural or artificial, plays a central role in conjuring mood.
This work resulted from a composite representation of several gasoline stations seen by the artist. The light in this painting—both natural and artificial—gives the scene of a gas station and its lone attendant at dusk an underlying sense of drama. But rather than simply depicting a straightforward narrative, Hopper’s aim was “the most exact transcription possible of my most intimate impressions of nature”—in this case, the loneliness of an American country road. Fellow artist Charles Burchfield believed these paintings would remain memorable beyond their time, because in his “honest presentation of the American scene . . . Hopper does not insist upon what the beholder shall feel.”
Early Sunday Morning is one of Edward Hopper’s most iconic paintings. Although he described this work as “almost a literal translation of Seventh Avenue,” Hopper reduced the New York City street to bare essentials. The lettering in the window signs is illegible, architectural ornament is loosely sketched, and human presence is merely suggested by the various curtains differentiating discrete apartments. The long, early morning shadows in the painting would never appear on a north-south street such as Seventh Avenue. Yet these very contrasts of light and shadow, and the succession of verticals and horizontals, create the charged, almost theatrical, atmosphere of empty buildings on an unpopulated street at the beginning of the day. Although Hopper is known as a quintessential twentieth-century American realist, and his paintings are fundamentally representational, this work demonstrates his emphasis on simplified forms, painterly surfaces, and studiously constructed compositions.
The scene of a brightly lit room is contained within the dark sill of a window. The stark framing makes the room the main focus, drawing the eye and giving realness to the action of peeping into a space where the subjects are unaware they are being watched. The genuineness of spying is a product of Hopper’s artistic process. He admitted the inspiration for Room in New York came from “glimpses of lighted interiors seen as I walked along city streets at night.”
The act of peering gives the viewer the sense that what is being seen is wholly real and unfiltered; “the self-absorbed figures do not know of his presence; otherwise, they would be embarrassed, startled, or otherwise uncomfortable.”
The harsh lines and blocks of color that frame the scene not only divide the space between viewer and subject but also divide space within the room itself. Hopper places a door almost exactly center to divide the work into two distinct halves horizontally, isolating the man and the woman into their respective sides. While the man reads the newspaper, his counterpart plays the piano with her back to him.
Edward Hopper was one of the early American artists to paint the experience of human isolation in the modern city. In Morning Sun, the woman – modeled after Hopper’s wife, Jo – faces the sun impassively and seemingly lost in thought. Her visible right eye appears sightless, emphasizing her isolation. The bare wall and the elevation of the room above the street also suggest the bleakness and solitude of impersonal urban life.
The painting depicts an office occupied by an attractive young woman in a short-sleeved blue dress who is standing at an open file cabinet, and a slightly older man who is perhaps in early middle age. He is dressed in a three-piece suit and is seated behind a desk. The nature of the office is unclear—it could just as easily be the office of a lawyer, an accountant or of a small business.
The painting depicts two women and a man in the lobby of a hotel. On the right is a woman with blond hair and a blue dress, sitting with her legs crossed and reading a book. To the left sits an older woman with a red dress, a coat and a hat. A man stands next to her, facing forward, with a suit on and an overcoat draped over his right arm. On the left wall, above the woman, is a framed landscape painting. A clerk behind the reception desk is barely visible in the shadows.
Hotel Lobby is a signature piece in Hopper’s work, displaying his classic themes of alienation and brevity. The Hoppers traveled frequently, staying in many motels and hotels throughout his career. This is one of two works in his catalog that depicts a hotel, the other being Hotel Window (1955).
The Metropolitan Museum acquired this painting shortly after it was completed in late October 1953. Begun in Cape Cod over the summer and finished in New York City, it was the only oil painting Hopper produced that year. Reprising one of his signature subjects—a solitary figure, physically and emotionally detached from his surroundings and other people—it was described by the artist’s wife as “the man in concrete wall.”