Edward Hopper: Solitude in the Big City

Sometimes I discover art, literature, or music I like that was there in popular culture all throughout my life but for whatever shallow forgettable reason I never gave it a chance. The work of American realist painter Edward Hopper is one striking example of that.

A poster of the above painting Nighthawks hangs in many college freshman dorms, which somehow makes it more challenging to like. I saw it a long time ago in Chicago, and was not particularly impressed. But last month I noticed it again, and was profoundly moved. Something about the mix of city-lit night, the cheap diner, the hopelessly overdressed couple, the anonymity of the man sitting alone…

For me, it captures the ups and downs of solitude and the introspective peace of city life. Obviously, the strongest connection I feel at this time is with the man sitting alone. The couple in this painting fades almost immediately, as if they are just another piece of furniture.

Hopper has opened my eyes to the ability of realism to have extract metaphysical depth from the mundane.

Above and to the right are a couple more examples of his ability to capture the balance between the burden and the lightness of life in an individualist society. Above is Hotel Room. To the right is Cape Cod Morning.


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