Edward Hopper Night Windows oil on canvas 29"x34" 1928
Edward Hopper Sun in an Empty Room oil on canvas 28.75"x 39.5" 1963
The light in the paintings of Edward Hopper (1882-1967) can blast like a searchlight, invading the private spaces of unknown characters. It reveals their solitary moods that range from contemplative silence to isolation.
Hopper, occasionally needing a break from painting, would sometimes spend a week just going to the movies. He was a loner with curiosity about other people's lives, but with no great desire to join in, content to watch stories unfold on film or through the windows of an apartment at night.
"Sun in an Empty Room" was painted late in Hopper's life, and all unnecessary detail has been suppressed in favor of clear structure. Many descriptions of this painting include the phrase "the loneliness of empty rooms", but perhaps the word "lonely" is overused in describing the mood of his paintings. Hopper did once say that "the loneliness thing is overdone".
I for one love empty rooms and find them good places to think. You know that moment when you are in the middle of a move from one house to the next, and you have cleared all your stuff out of one house? You turn around and walk through the empty rooms one last time, and think "These rooms are really so beautiful and peaceful. Why did I ever accumulate so much stuff?"
But maybe that's just me. What do you think? Do Edward Hopper's paintings provide us a space for contemplative thought, or are they depictions of modern American isolation?
Inspired by the paintings of Gabriella Soraci, the month of October will be devoted to looking at paintings that use a window as a central subject. I plan to alternate between contemporary artists and artists from the past. If you have a suggestion (not your own work please), please email me an image along with a few sentences about the work. (It is helpful if the image is not overly well-known.)