- Arts and Design
Edward Hopper; Sunlight and Solitude
Edward Hopper was one of the most elegant, complex, and evocative painters of the 20th century. I'll bet you've seen his work or work inspired by him many times without even knowing.
Have you ever seen some of the short animations of city life on Turner Classic Movies? They're usually shown just before the film. TCM didn't reproduce Hopper but rather interpreted and restyled some of his more famous works.
Have you ever seen Blade Runner , Psycho , Days of Heaven , or Pennies from Heaven (the version with Steve Martin)? Then you've seen some of the work inspired by Edward Hopper.
Note: I've just re-watched The Natural with Robert Redford. The entire opening sequence could have come directly from Hopper paintings. His influence permeates the look of the entire film. I can't believe I'm just now seeing this as I have watched this movie several times over the years.
There was a wonderfully strange commercial for blue jeans that was on the late 70s or early 80s. It was inspired by the movie Giant and the work of James Dean. A woman sits in a old convertible in front of a very strange looking house. The house was directly inspired by Edward Hopper's House by the Railroad as was the house in Psycho.
He painted America in a unique realistic style that also spoke deeply to the imagination. His work rarely told a story but more often gave us glimpses of life that seemed familiar but forced the viewer to fill in the details about the scene and the people.
Most of his work was done in the first half of the 1900s. He worked in oils and watercolors. He did etchings and produced prints. He was fascinated by light, particularly sunlight. Very few of his paintings include lousy weather.
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It’s been often said that Edward Hopper's pictures illustrate loneliness and isolation in the 20th century. I am constantly floored by that description of his work. To me they are quiet and peaceful. I could step into most of them and sit smiling in the sun. I am solitary by nature and find the draw of those quiet landscapes irresistible.
He did include people in many of his works but they are often alone or distant from the other occupants of the painting. I love the fact that his women look like real women and not idealized plastic people. His wife, Jo, modeled for most of the females in his paintings and sketches. Probably best as many of his women are naked.
As a person who prefers their own company, I cannot deny that I see myself in many of his paintings of women alone. It is a welcome recognition that we have lives that are quite separate from men and the outside world. Although some could be described as melancholy, I tend to see women who have taken off the masks they use in the company of others.
I cannot resist Morgensonne from 1952. To sit quietly on your bed in the sun. Lovely.
I must say that most of the people I've talked to have an interpretation that is quite different. Take a look at his work and I mean really look and see what you think.