The only painting in which Edward Hopper depicts a cinema screen, New York Movie (1939) is one of the artist’s most compelling and spatially complex theater pictures. This work depicts three distinct features within the movie house: the screen, the moviegoers watching it, and the usher tasked with watching them. The space itself is an amalgam of hoppers on-site research from four New York theaters: the Globe, Palace, Republic, and Strand. Hopper’s wife, Jo, who posed for both the usher and the audience members, noted Edward’s struggle in bringing this painting together: “it is such a difficult subject…Not to be there as he looks – not even taken from any one theater – bits from all of them.” Examples from the 53 extant sketches show both the design flourishes characteristic to each theater, as well as certain architectural typologies common to all.
Photographed as part of the Exhibit Hopper’s New York on View at the Whitney Museum, New York City, Through March 5th, 2023.
Edward Hopper’s 1940 painting, Gas, depicts an American gas station at the end of a highway — the subject being a composite of several gas stations Hopper had visited. According to his wife, the gas station motif was something he had wanted to paint for a long time. Hopper struggled with the painting, since he had begun to produce new paintings at a slower rate than before, and had trouble finding suitable gas stations to paint. The artist wanted to paint a station with the lights lit above the pumps, but the stations in his area only turned the lights on when it was pitch dark outside, to save energy.
Edward Hopper’s Seven A.M. (1948) depicts an anonymous storefront cast in the oblique, eerie shadows and cool light of early morning. The store’s shelves stand empty, and the few odd products displayed in the window provide no evidence of the store’s function. A clock on the wall confirms the time given in the title, and indeed the painting seems to depict a specific moment and place. Yet a series of Hopper’s preparatory sketches reveal that he experimented with significant compositional variations, depicting a figure in the second story window. He even considered setting the painting at another time of day. His wife, Josephine Hopper, a respected artist herself, described the store as a “blind pig” — a front for some illicit operation, perhaps alluding to the painting’s forbidding overtones.
New York Interior (1921) is an early example of Edward Hopper’s interest in enigmatic indoor scenes, offering an unconventional view of a woman sewing, suggesting the impersonal, yet strangely intimate quality of modern urban life. We glimpse this private moment through a window, with the figure’s turned face and exposed back heightening her anonymity and our awareness of her vulnerability. The woman’s clothing and gesture are reminiscent of the iconic ballet dancers painted by French impressionist Edgar Degas, whom Hopper singled out as the artist whose work he most admired.
House by the Railroad (1925) By American Realist Painter Edward Hopper is the first painting that was acquired by The Museum of Modern Art, in 1930. If this house looks familar to you, it may because it is said to have inspired the look of the Bates house in Alfred Hitchcock’s film Psycho. So, there’s that.
Curator, Ann Temkin offers her insight about the painting: House by the Railroad is very much a portrait of a house. And I think the loneliness of the house is what really comes through in the painting. You would think that there would be some kind of activity, perhaps, on this bright, sunny day. And yet there is this stillness that pervades the canvas. Some people have speculated that the railroad tracks in front of the house imply movement. And of course, there is no train. But the implication of movement in those tracks makes you all the more aware of the absolute lack of movement in this picture.
I really love this painting, which is displayed adjacent to Andrew Wyeth’s famous work, Christina’s World, at MOMA.