From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Edward Hopper (July 22, 1882 – May 15, 1967) was an American painter and printmaker best remembered for his eerily realistic depictions of solitude in contemporary American life. While most popularly known for his oil paintings, he was equally proficient as a watercolorist and printmaker in etching.
He is known for such works as Hotel Room (1931).
Hopper's influence on the art world and pop culture is undeniable. Though he had no formal students, many artists have cited him as an influence including Jim Dine, Willem de Kooning, Richard Estes, and Mark Rothko. A good example of Hopper’s influence is Rothko’s early work Composition I (c. 1931), a direct paraphrase of Hopper’s Chop Suey.
Hopper's cinematic compositions and dramatic use of light and dark has made him a favorite among filmmakers. For example, House by the Railroad is reported to have heavily influenced the iconic house in the Alfred Hitchcock film Psycho. The same painting has also been cited as being an influence on the home in the Terrence Malick film Days of Heaven. German director Wim Wenders also cites Hopper influence. His 1997 film The End of Violence incorporates a tableau vivant of Nighthawks, recreated by actors. Noted surrealist horror film director Dario Argento went so far as to recreate the diner and the patrons in Nighthawks as part of a set for his 1976 film Deep Red (aka Profondo Rosso). Ridley Scott has cited the same painting as a visual inspiration for Blade Runner. To establish the lighting of scenes in the 2002 film Road to Perdition, director Sam Mendes drew from the paintings of Hopper as a source of inspiration, particularly New York Movie.
Musical influences include singer/songwriter Tom Waits's 1975 live-in-the-studio album titled Nighthawks at the Diner, after the painting. In 1993, Madonna was inspired sufficiently by Hopper's 1941 painting, "Girlie Show", that she named her world tour after it and incorporated many of the theatrical elements and mood of the painting into the show.
Place in American art
In focusing primarily on quiet moments, very rarely showing action, Hopper employed a form of realism adopted by another leading American realist Andrew Wyeth, but Hopper’s technique was completely different from Wyeth’s hyper-detailed style. In league with some of his contemporaries, Hopper shared his urban sensibility with John Sloan and George Bellows but avoided their overt action and violence. Where Joseph Stella and Georgia O’Keeffe glamorized the monumental structures of the city, Hopper reduced them to everyday geometrics and he depicted the pulse of the city as desolate and dangerous rather than “elegant or seductive”.
Charles Burchfield, whom Hopper admired and whom he was compared to, said of Hopper, “he achieves such a complete verity that you can read into his interpretations of houses and conceptions of New York life any human implications you wish.” He also attributed Hopper’s success to his “bold individualism…In him we have regained that sturdy American independence which Thomas Eakins gave us, but which for a time was lost.”
Though compared to his contemporary Norman Rockwell in terms of subject matter, Hopper didn’t like the comparison. Hopper considered himself more subtle, less illustrative, and certainly not sentimental. When his wife commented on the figure in Cape Cod Morning “It’s a woman looking out to see if the weather’s good enough to hang out her wash,” Hopper retorted, “Did I say that? You’re making it Norman Rockwell. From my point of view she’s just looking out the window.” He also rejected comparisons with Grant Wood and Thomas Hart Benton stating “I think the American Scene painters caricatured America. I always wanted to do myself.”