Dec 04

Hopper’s quiet realism

Posted by Benedikte Vanderwee├źn on 04/12/2009

I have a few art books and every time I see the Edward Hopper book, i cannot resist to open it and start looking and reading about his paintings. Although Edward Hopper lived from 1882 till 1967, his work looks still very “modern”. He is known for his quiet and silent realism but I think he reveals a very strange and honest beauty in the everyday objects and lives.

His career

Edward Hopper was a commercial illustrator and hadn't much success in his painting career till the age of 40. It was late in his career that his paintings started to sell well. You can read his career path on this excellent mfa (museum of fine arts, Boston) website made for an exhibition that was held in 2007.

Women and sun

Hopper painted women in a strange way. When I look at his paintings, I feel like a voyeur, like you are watching someone without them being aware of you watching them, like violating their intimacy. With his paintings of women, I always have that strange feeling. You see a woman sitting on a bed, like she just woke up and she is warming herself in the morning sunlight. Woman are alone, naked, staring through a window Romantic people in solitude. Hopper's use of light is superb, the dominant factor in his work, what makes his work so great to watch.

Morning Sun

Hotel Room


Western Motel

A Woman in the Sun

Strange relationship between men and women

Hopper paints the relationship between man and woman as very complex with an underlying sexual tension. The longing to be together is very present, like in this paintings:

Office at Night

Sunlight in a Cafeteria

First Row Orchestra

Summer evening

Inside and outside

City life, New York in his case, played a dominant role in the subjects of his paintings. The quiet and introvert person in a massively dominant city with lots of people, lots of noise, it creates a strange atmosphere.

The subject of his paintings has mostly something to do with the inside and outside world. A woman or man is looking from the inside to the outside, or you as the viewer are looking inside from the outside. This relationship strikes me every time when I look at his work. It feels so strange, like their is a huge desire to communicate but feeling the barrier to be communicative. This is his work at best, I think.

Night Windows

Office In A Small City

New York Office

Movies and fashion

From mostly all of his paintings, you can tell that Hopper was greatly inspired by movies and moviestills. He is the director of the elements in his painting. Sometimes, it feels like the persons are like actors and actresses, you're not sure if they are players or not. Hopper was also a fashion lover, as you can tell from the dresses the women wear and the details in the clothes.

Chop Suey

New York movie

MFA Hopper Exhibition Website

Visit this website for more information on Hopper:

On this website, you can see Hopper's drawings presented in an interactive sketchbook.


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