Edward Hopper’s style of Art

Today in class, we viewed various paintings from Edward Hopper’s vast collection in which he depicts real life moments. I immediately noticed that he didn’t do a lot of meddling with the scene itself. He painted it as it is but of course, as many painters do, highlighted focal points through his color choices and the contours of the image itself. While these scenes might not have occurred, the viewer can witness these images all around them and is therefore able to use the relatable surroundings to bring meaning to the focal point of the painting.

For instance, in the 1921 “Night Shadows”, the painting itself is very cartoonish but the scene itself is more than common within our society. The painting  seems like a sketch but the use of the contrasting colors white and black brings immediate attention to what seems to be a very shady man in the middle of a vacant street corner. The contrasting color of white is used in between the darkness of black to isolate the man, making him the obvious focal point.  He is overpowered by the shadow of a streetlight but again, the reason why the streetlight is towering over him is not because the streetlight is of impossible disproportional measures but because our position as the critic of this particular scene is from an elevated height. So again, Hopper sticks to reality which is by using contrasting colors and different angles to bring definition to what is already present. The familiarity the viewers have with the scenario of seeing a strange man during a strange time of day, allows us to conclude that their is an abnormality with his presence. We put his small stature, which is again because of our great height with the colors used and with the towering shadow of the streetlight that dominates him, to create a conclusion that this man might be up to no good. Our understanding that resulted from this familiarity allows us to further analyze his physical use of angles, shades, and his coloring style. I personally thought he seemed sketchy from his isolation so I figured Hopper intended to use the sketch style to hint at the focal point’s “sketchy” behavior.

Regardless of the reality of the purpose of the painting, Hopper was successful in his attempt at using his style of bringing the familiarity of everyday situations to allow the viewers to make a conclusion. We are therefore able to question the endless possibilities because of the fact that we are so familiar. If Hopper were to use scenarios present only in oblivion, our thoughts might be a little more scattered because we may not be as rational as we are with his works.

Hopper seems to love the idea of mystery and ambiguity. His very own portrait has an incredible number of shadows on his own face which shows that only in reality, is he present. The viewers all know what a portrait is but the meaning behind his own is that there might be more to him than just what you see. His obsession with ambiguity is very apparent since even something so simple as a two dimensional visual presentation of someone’s face is skewed into being something that has to be further analyzed. For him, there is what a viewer sees and then what the viewer understands, making him unique because he seems to find detail and story in something that most people wouldn’t think much about.