Edward Hopper – Study Case


Edward Hopper, known as a successful painter, and printmaker, was also famous for his detailed observations of urban landscapes, views, and interior spaces. While talking about his work, he specifically points out that there are no feelings hidden behind his paintings: they simply convey everyday life observations. However, many who viewed his work go against his statement: Viewers and art critiques such as Annie Proulx claim that the simplicity in Hopper’s work depicts loneliness, isolation, and sadness.

An example that justifies this point is an observational painting titled ‘House by the Railroad’, which he made in 1925, with the method of oil on canvas. It is a simple Victorian-style mansion located in the south of Haverstraw, New York. His work reveals a solitary structure, separated from its surroundings by a set of railroad tracks. In his work, Hopper plays with lighting: Although the mansion seems isolated and far from any kind of human interaction, the artist plays with the background of the art work imposing natural light which gives out a sunny and luminous vibe. Viewers conclude that this scene had been observed during a sunny afternoon, given the contrast of the shadows through the windows, walls, as well as the bottom of the railroad. Although the lighting effect Hopper used creates a serein atmosphere, the empty background and barrier that is the railroad, transmit a feel of solitude, heartache, grief, and melancholy; which justifies why most viewers question Hopper’s intentions. An element that also activated the observer’s curiosity is the fact that a psychological horror movie titled ‘Psycho’, produced by Alfred Hitchcock, was entirely inspired by Hopper’s painting.

As I look at this work, and read about it, I agree with the fact that this painting transmits all sorts of saddening emotions. I assume that Hopper was someone who felt different, and isolated by society. He viewed things differently (assuming this through his art, the way that he observes banal scenes, yet makes them seem spectacular) and therefore did not fit in. The railroad symbolizes urbanization, the way that successful men would catch the train, and go to work. To me, this railroad symbolizes the ‘nouveaux-riche’, which means new money. People’s economy would grow yet Hopper would still be in his studio, that had no fridge nor toilet, hoping he’d survive through his art, and people would understand it somehow. The fact that some windows are closed, yet some open with light in a mansion that seems so cut out from the real world symbolizes the fact that although he had been isolated, and desperate to create something that would be perceived as ‘good art’, he was still alive, still had hope for the future, yet seemed dead to many.

I chose this art piece as I could easily relate to it. Yet looking at the painting, I do not know what I relate to: The painting itself, or the intention I assume Edward Hopper implemented? Moving to a new city, discovering new interests, values, and morals, I feel isolated from my home town, and often compare myself to a fish out of the water. This painting is a work that relays how I feel in my home in Paris. A new city, that seems active to many yet quiet and dull to me. Although I am full of ambition, hope and ideas for my future, I am unknown, and maybe not even a person to people that walk beside me on the street, new faces, that I have never heard nor seen before. This relates to the windows in Hopper’s work: Optimistic for his future (on the inside: lights inside the windows) as an artist, yet dead and gone to many. (on the surface: the dead feel that the walls bring out).

Although I thought of this work as one of the strongest, and most meaningful I have seen, I really disliked its large, thick frame. I would not change the color as it is an old painting, however id change the frames layout.

Nevertheless, the most prominent element of this painting is isolation, therefore I believe this painting should not be placed right next to an art work that takes out the attention from it. On the contrary it should be placed at the corner of a wall for people to better understand the intention that Hopper had, despite the fact that it may only seem as a basic observational panting made with oil on canvas. The scale of the work was fairly correct (61×73.7cm), if it had been bigger, the sense of isolation, minority, and fragility would not be conveyed so clearly.

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