Edward Hopper, Nighthawks, 1942, oil on canvas, 33 ⅛” x 60”, Art Institute of Chicago, Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Edward Hopper: Lonely Town

The American artist Edward Hopper had the uncanny ability to make his brightly lit spaces rather cool.  It suited the desolate mood of his realist images of the urban environment in the 20th century.

The fluorescent lighting in this painting of an all-night café is garish and stark.  Because the streets are deserted, one imagines that it is very late and the three patrons have nowhere else to go.  Their poses and gestures establish an introspective mood; the clerk is the only one who makes contact with others.  Each person appears to be alone in his or her thoughts.

Hopper’s compositions are masterful in a formal sense.  Bold geometric forms underpin this scene.  The diner forms a large triangular shape on the right and several rectangular forms appear within the doors and windows in the background.  This type of underlying structure and simplicity is part of the appeal of Hoppers art.


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