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Edward Hopper and his portraits of American life

The painter of contemporary American loneliness is also one of the main representatives of 20th century realism. Throughout his career, Edward Hopper did not receive the recognition he deserved. But today he has become an icon whose works show the reality of modern society. Why don’t we know more about it?

Some interesting facts about Edward Hopper

This artist, framed in American realism, was born in Nyack on July 22, 1882. It is a small city on the banks of the Hudson. He soon attended the New York School of Art, where had as a teacher the painter Robert Henri, among others. This encourages him to break free from academic norms and seek his own voice.

Shortly after, Hopper gets his first job as an advertising illustrator and will be lucky enough to travel to Europe several times. Thus, he is passionate about the art and culture of the Old Continent. In particular, he is attracted to masters such as Degas, Manet, Pissarro and Monet, but he will also feel a special predilection for the genius of Goya.

In 1910 he settles permanently in New York, where he will live until the end of his days. Already in 1924 he married Josephine Nivison, who served him as a model in multiple works. Although Hopper was initially associated with different groups interested in American themes, he soon outlined a personal and unique style.

He also temporarily dedicated himself to cultivating other techniques such as engraving, drypoint and etching. It will be these productions that will finally earn him prestigious recognition, for which in 1933 the MoMA dedicated to Hopper the first retrospective of his career.

Despite everything, Hopper did not achieve true fame until after his death, on May 15, 1967. Today, he is recognized as one of the great creators of the 20th century.

The unique artistic style of Edward Hopper

The painter is famous for capturing American life and routine. He recreates himself in everyday scenes, always presenting his characters from the point of view of the voyeur, transmitting melancholy and loneliness. In this way, her plastic vocation evolves towards a crude realism that brings us closer to the America of the Great Depression.

It presents us with evidently calm individuals, supposedly immersed in the ‘American dream’, who behave mechanically. A) Yes, Hopper achieves an almost cinematic settingtogether with a unique use of light.

Most of his works take place in public places: hotels, stations, bars or cafes. But they are not very lively spaces that underline the drama and isolation of their protagonists. All this merges with a studied contrast between light and shadow, making Hopper’s production especially attractive.

When we look at his paintings and look over them, we understand the longing that these subjects exude, who keep unspeakable secrets. The figures seem to be paralyzed by time, waiting for something to happen to get out of that loneliness.

Hopper’s parts collection is quite small, because the artist works slowly. Although that does not mean that his works are brilliant, would you like to know the details of the most famous?

automat (1927), one of Hopper’s first essential canvases

To contemplate this painting we have to travel to the Des Moines Art Center, in Iowa. automatic It was a typical 1920s cafeteria, with no waiters and only a few coffee machines. A) Yes, the type of venue chosen accentuates the solitary character of the woman, sitting with no one around while the night takes over the city.

In his creations, Hopper only suggests for the viewer to imagine the rest of the story. Here we see a girl in a melancholic attitude and elegantly dressed. A date gone wrong? A horrible day at work? For all these reasons, the stillness fills us with a certain uneasiness as we do not know with certainty the reason for the sad gesture of the protagonist.

Hotel room (1931), a piece by Hopper in Spain

The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid is the owner of this painting in which, once again, we witness a scene from the point of view of the voyeur. Here we contemplate any room in which a young woman is sitting on the edge of the bed, looking tired. She checks the train schedules and still has her bags unpacked.

In conclusion, never fail to be fascinated by the bright colors of Hopper’s palette in a cold and small space. A space that increases the feeling of restlessness.

new york movies (1939), at MoMA

In this case, Hopper takes us to a movie theater and shows us two very different scenes. On one side are the spectators, sitting in their seats, enjoying the show. On the other hand, the figure of the usherette, isolated in a corner, is the one that captures all our attention.

For this work his wife, Jo, served as a model. It is she who personifies this lonely woman in the hallway, lost in her own thoughts.

office at night (1940), The American Routine Through Hopper’s Eyes

To see this painting we will have to visit the Walker Art Center in Minnesota. On this occasion, we snuck into a typical 1930s American office scene. Hopper develops a set of superimposed lights that come from three points: the ceiling, the table lamp and the street.

All this confirms that it is night, while this couple is still working. The woman looks for documents and the man studies some papers with a gesture of concern. One more time, the mystery of not knowing the relationship between the characters and the lack of interaction flood the image.

Nighthawks (1942), one of Hopper’s masterpieces

This piece is in the Art Institute of Chicago and its title means ‘hawks of the night’. In this stage we see the characters in a diner from Greenwich Village, which no longer exists. Likewise, we are presented with an empty street late at night. Meanwhile, inside the premises, three customers stay up late and are immersed in their worries.

To further accentuate the isolated character, the waiter does not pay attention to the rest of the individuals either. Above all, highlights the brilliant treatment of the lights that illuminate the entire street.

Morning sun (1952)

In this beautiful creation, which is on display at the Columbus Museum of Art, Hopper places his beloved Jo as a model again. She features her sitting up in bed, looking out the window as the sunlight bathes her all over. His wife was 69 years old when she posed for this work, so the artist shows us how good she looked.

However, there are no ornaments and the canvas is extremely simple. The only thing that draws our attention is the strong contrast between interior and exterior, allowing the viewer to slip into the intimacy of the character. Silence invades everythingsince, as Hopper himself stated, “if it could be said with words, it would not be necessary to paint”.

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