Edward Hopper: The Face of Urban Loneliness
I, like most people, discovered Hopper through his sombre work Nighthawks (1942). What seems like a simple painting of an all-night diner and its habitants holds an aura of inexplicable melancholy that intrigues the viewer. I couldn’t understand why I was so drawn to the piece, so I decided to probe into the rest of his artworks to investigate.
Born in 1882, Hopper grew up in New York City and began drawing at the age of five. Even in his early drawings, it is evident that he had a masterful perception of shadow and lighting - elements that act as a focal point in his later work. Unlike his European contemporaries who explored the realms of Cubism and Surrealism, Hopper's inspiration came from the Old Masters and their realism.
The Hopper household was dominated by women - his mother, grandmother, nanny, and sister. Therefore it is not all too surprising that women are primarily the subjects of his works such as Eleven A.M. (1926) or Western Motel (1957). Hopper was fascinated by architecture, something which is given great importance in his artwork.
The real essence of his work is the lighting, which highlights the subject of the painting, bringing it to focus. Be it an aesthetically pleasing building basking in the morning light, an image of a man tinkering with a gas station pump, or a couple talking under the porch light, Hopper could take the mundane and make it intimate and personal to the viewer.
However, his work is heavy with urban loneliness; though there may be several characters in the painting, they seem disconnected from the rest of their world - quite like the inherent loneliness each of us feels going about our lives in bustling cities.
Hopper's relevance has become apparent now more than ever, with a great majority of us still living in isolation. May these paintings appear to you not as a despondent reminder of our loneliness, but as a comfort that this sense of solitude is a reality not faced by us alone.