During the time of the world-spread social graces of distancing, Edward Hopper's unfrequented paintings seem to have become more relevant than ever. But then, there is no deny that Hopper's pictures were always about alienation and distance; one can say that even when there's more than one people in a picture, they seem to distance themselves from the others, physically and sentimentally. But what can Hopper's art say about today?
More and more people share Edward Hopper's paintings in social media, during the current isolation we experience. They even seem to be much truer to life as we know it now. We can almost taste the bourbon the characters are drinking, or even the emptiness the vacant places bring. Hopper's paintings are not just a realistic depiction of the concept of solitude, they are universal images, relatable to people all around the world, reflecting the compact feeling of alienation to the others -and to one's self. The film-noir-like existential void that echoes through the painting is intense. Especially the feeling of social alienation in Nighthawks, the empty places between the people, the feeling of abandonment, the deafening silence. It is just too touching.
We may even say that Hopper's art introduces the fourth dimension - time. It represents a dangerous hour, when sending a message or meeting someone could be wrong. It strikes us with a feeling of adventure, like a scene of a film noir. It is known that Hopper was inspired by German expressionists and this could be a reason his paintings reflect -let's say- the feeling of a Fritz Lang movie. It is also said that Hopper read Ernest Hemingway's The Killers before painting Nighthawks and this was his inspiration for this painting. No doubt the atmosphere of the painting is filled with excitement and danger. Also, an interesting point for the comprehension of the painting is that it was intended to be a depiction of a cheap restaurant, but as Hopper said in an interview, he tried to simplify the scene a lot and that made the restaurant look bigger and nicer. What does this say about us? Are we deluding our inner emptiness with bigger and better-curated interior decoration?
The shimmering, important art of Edward Hopper guides us through solitude with compassion and goodwill, during quarantine. Massive audience platforms, like WhatsApp, agree: We are all Edward Hopper paintings now. On this time of reflection and self-awareness, there is one thing left to think: Can art be enough to drive away our loneliness?
Art Educator, Cultural Manager
MA in Cultural and Cinema Studies
Levin G., 1998, Edward Hopper: An Intimate Biography, Berkeley: University of California Press