Tag Archives: Nighthawks painting

#FineArtFriday: Nighthawks by Edward Hopper 1942

Nighthawks_by_Edward_Hopper_1942Artist: Edward Hopper (1882–1967)

Title: Nighthawks

Genre: genre art

Date: 21 January 1942

Medium: oil on canvas

Dimensions: Height: 84.1 cm (33.1 in); Width: 152.4 cm (60 in)

Collection: Art Institute of Chicago

What I love about this painting:

Edward Hopper’s years spent working as an illustrator enabled him to convey mood and emotion with startling clarity. In Nighthawks, the mood is dark and brooding. The emotion is solitariness, the sense of being alone even in the company of others. We (the viewer) stand in the shadows outside the diner, with a cinematic view of the brightly lit interior, its neon cheeriness imposed upon the patrons, who seem oblivious to it. Around us, the street is dark and empty.

Some have ascribed the dark atmosphere of this piece to the fact that Pearl Harbor had just been attacked, and that may have played a role in Hopper’s personal mood as he developed the painting. However, Hopper himself later said, “Nighthawks has more to do with the possibility of predators in the night than with loneliness.” [1]

We who observe through the window are voyeurs, observers only, watching the people who pass the lonely night in the café.

About this painting, via Wikipedia:

Nighthawks is a 1942 oil on canvas painting by Edward Hopper that portrays four people in a downtown diner late at night as viewed through the diner’s large glass window. The light coming from the diner illuminates a darkened and deserted urban streetscape.

It has been described as Hopper’s best-known work and is one of the most recognizable paintings in American art. Within months of its completion, it was sold to the Art Institute of Chicago on May 13, 1942, for $3,000, equivalent to $47,520 in 2020.

It has been suggested that Hopper was inspired by a short story of Ernest Hemingway‘s, either “The Killers.” which Hopper greatly admired, or from the more philosophical “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place.” In response to a query on loneliness and emptiness in the painting, Hopper outlined that he “didn’t see it as particularly lonely.” He said, “Unconsciously, probably, I was painting the loneliness of a large city.” [2]

About the Artist, via Wikipedia:

Always reluctant to discuss himself and his art, Hopper simply said, “The whole answer is there on the canvas.” Hopper was stoic and fatalistic—a quiet introverted man with a gentle sense of humor and a frank manner. Hopper was someone drawn to an emblematic, anti-narrative symbolism,  who painted short, isolated moments of configuration, saturated with suggestion. His silent spaces and uneasy encounters touch us where we are most vulnerable and have a suggestion of melancholy, that melancholy being enacted. His sense of color revealed him as a pure painter as he turned the Puritan into the purist, in his quiet canvasses where blemishes and blessings balance. According to critic Lloyd Goodrich, he was “an eminently native painter, who more than any other was getting more of the quality of America into his canvases.”

Conservative in politics and social matters (Hopper asserted for example that “artists’ lives should be written by people very close to them”), he accepted things as they were and displayed a lack of idealism. Cultured and sophisticated, he was well-read, and many of his paintings show figures reading. He was generally good company and unperturbed by silences, though sometimes taciturn, grumpy, or detached. He was always serious about his art and the art of others, and when asked would return frank opinions.

Though Hopper claimed that he didn’t consciously embed psychological meaning in his paintings, he was deeply interested in Freud and the power of the subconscious mind. He wrote in 1939, “So much of every art is an expression of the subconscious that it seems to me most of all the important qualities are put there unconsciously, and little of importance by the conscious intellect.”


Credits and Attributions:

[1] Wikipedia contributors, “Edward Hopper,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Edward_Hopper&oldid=1038646946 (accessed September 9, 2021).

[2] Wikipedia contributors, “Nighthawks (painting),” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Nighthawks_(painting)&oldid=1042829601 (accessed September 9, 2021).

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Nighthawks by Edward Hopper 1942.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Nighthawks_by_Edward_Hopper_1942.jpg&oldid=469227621 (accessed September 9, 2021).

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