Edward Hopper was one of America’s most influential realist painters of the 20th century. His work was an expertly executed mélange of painting, light and storytelling, depicting New England towns and New York City architecture. Hopper’s paintings were mysterious, filled with longing and offered a new way of seeing. He left behind an unprecedented legacy that Artalistic – one of the leading platforms for buying and selling fine art online – has carefully combed through in order to bring you what we believe to be Edward Hopper’s 5 most famous paintings.
Illustration: Edward Hopper, Self-Portrait, 1925.
Introduction: about the artist
Edward Hopper (1882-1967) was born in New York. His artistic journey began as an illustrator, he quickly became interested in painting and associated with the leading figures of the Ashcan School, a realist movement of artist’s determined to bring art into closer touch with everyday life.
Hopper traveled to Europe on several occasions and particularly enjoyed Paris. He became fascinated with Edgar Degas, Édouard Manet and Picasso. Hopper was drawn to their impressionist techniques and depiction and attention to light within their compositions.
A unique style
His illustrations earned him a steady income. However, his paintings made a mark on the art world from the moment they were first put on public display.
Six of his paintings were shown at the International Watercolor Exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum in 1923. His artistic vision was an instant success, leaving much of the interpretation up to the viewer due to his characters’ minimalist and enigmatic poses.
Painting, film, light and storytelling
Hopper was a master at transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary. He concentrated on depicting urban scenes and occasionally experimented with landscapes.
Hopper painted from real life, creating stark yet intimate interpretations of American life. At the surface, Hopper’s paintings appear to be calm and silent, a perfect reflection of the artist himself, as the art historian Lloyd Goodrich once stated, “Hopper had no small talk, he was famous for his monumental silences; but like the spaces in his pictures, they were not empty."
Edward Hopper’s paintings & his legacy
Although not necessarily the most prolific artist of his time in terms of technique, Edward Hopper created countless famous paintings that opened a door into the disillusioned melancholic atmosphere that reigned during the postmodern era.
His work was simplistic and concentrated on basic forms and light. His characters were often lost in thought gazing off into the distance beyond the edges of the canvas, leaving the viewer wondering what would happen to the characters in the next moment. Hopper’s paintings continue to inspire artists to this day, including the photographer Gregory Crewdson and iconic film maker Alfred Hitchcock.
5 famous Edward Hopper paintings
1. Nighthawks (1942)
Nighthawks is considered to be Edward Hopper's most famous painting. Its enigmatic aura pierces through and beyond the canvas with an overwhelming feeling of disconnection and voyeurism. The couple is reminiscent of the characters played by Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in To Have and Have Not. In 1997, Wim Wenders used this scene for a sequence in his film The End of Violence. The troubling and almost disturbing atmosphere present in this painting is highlighted by the aggressive artificial light and the feeling that the characters are trapped like flies within a bar that has no visible exit door.
2. Portrait of Orleans (1950)
This Edward Hopper painting of the intersection of Route 6 and Main Street in Orleans, Massachusetts looks like it could be any rural town in 1950s America. Hopper captures the banality of everyday life while highlighting a singular eerie moment in an empty, deserted city.
3. Gas (1940)
The painting Gas is similar to the Portrait of Orleans in its eerie approach to the banal. Hopper depicts the loneliness and isolation of contemporary man, an allegory of the alienation of Western life in the mid-20th century. The gas station chosen for this painting is said to be located in Cape Cod Massachusetts, a place where Hopper spent nearly every summer from 1930 until his death. The scene is given an extra element of the surreal with the bright light coming in from the right side of the canvas despite the fact that it is taking place at either dusk or dawn.
4. Second Story Sunlight (1960)
Hopper described this painting in the Record Book, a book where he described each of his paintings in minute detail with the help of his wife Jo Nivison, who was also a widely celebrated artist at the time. According to Hopper, this painting was "An attempt to paint sunlight as white with almost no yellow pigment in the white…any psychological idea will have to be supplied by the viewer." He used a mixture of white lead, oil paints and turpentine to reproduce “the morning light on white building facades.” Hopper’s wife Jo posed for both women in the picture – the older woman reading a newspaper and the younger one sunning herself on the porch railing.
5. House by the Railroad (1925)
The last famous painting by Edward Hopper on our list reflects Hopper’s love of the American landscape. The piece depicts a drab Victorian house with railroad tracks in the foreground that act as a barrier, keeping the viewer from seeing the grounds surrounding the house while adding Hopper’s signature mysterious element. Alfred Hitchcock used this painting as a model for the mansion inhabited by Norman Bates in his 1960s masterpiece Psycho.
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