North American Art

Edward Hopper And The Scent Of Loneliness

Zuzanna Stańska 19 January 2017 min Read

I remember watching Edward Hopper’s piece for the first time. Of course it was his famous Nighthawks – you know this painting – it’s late night, people are sitting in a cheap restaurant, a couple is waiting for their order. If you’ve ever been a “nighthawk” yourself you know that feeling of fatigue, smell of cigarettes and digested alcohol. Tiredness and lost illusions.


Edward Hopper, Nighthawks, 1942, Art Institute of Chicago
Edward Hopper, Nighthawks, 1942, Art Institute of Chicago

Hopper was a master of loneliness. Only he painted melancholy in such a way, that when you look at these people you can sense their secrets. Because sometimes your secrets are quite similar to theirs.

In Automat 1927, a woman sits alone drinking a cup of coffee. It is late and cold outside. The room seems large, brightly lit and empty. The woman looks self-conscious and slightly afraid, unused to being alone in a public place. Something appears to have gone wrong.

Edward Hopper, Automat, 1927, Des Moines Art Center
Edward Hopper, Automat, 1927, Des Moines Art Center

In A Woman in the Sun a woman is standing nakeda shaft of raking light from a nearby window with a her hand. She forgot to lit it. She seems to have forgotten herself. She even forget to lit a cigarette. Detached from the outside world she is waiting for the things to happen.

Edward Hopper, A Woman in the Sun, 1961, Whitney Museum of Art
Edward Hopper, A Woman in the Sun, 1961, Whitney Museum of Art

I can’t think of any other artist who was so perfect in catching loneliness, resignation and despair of modern people.

Find out more:

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