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The Life of Painter Edward Hopper

Nighthawks, a 1942 oil painting and one of Edward Hopper’s most famous works

Edward Hopper was an American painter during the early progressive era, made famous for his oil paintings. Born in 1882 in Nyack, New York, Hopper was always been inspired by his surroundings. This can be seen in his early portrayals of landscapes and small town scenes, similar to where he was raised in Nyack. After Hopper moved to New York City in 1908, he began painting the dark city scenes that he is best known for, such as Nighthawks and Automat. Nighthawks shows an old fashioned diner illuminated by bright fluorescent lights in contrast to the dark night outside. At the counter, a man and a woman are seated next to each other. Although they are not speaking or interacting, it is evident that they share a certain relationship. Completed in 1942, it is speculated that the empty street outside was based on real life events following the bombing of Pearl Harbor during the Second World War. The stark environment depicted could have been a result of widespread fear following the bombing, or perhaps representative of the feeling of seclusion that clung to Hopper throughout his life. 

In 1924, Hopper married Josephine Nivison, an established watercolor artist who would become the subject of many of his paintings. The relationship between Edward and Josephine was often tumultuous, and though it appeared to be functional in the eyes of the public, their distant relationship resulted in the detached expressions of both the men and women portrayed in Edward Hopper’s paintings. His characters appear together physically, often standing side-by-side, but are rarely seen interacting or even looking at each other. His relationship with his wife is reflected in the cold, taciturn nature of his subjects.

~ Emma Petersen

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