born July 22, 1882, Nyack, N.Y., U.S.
died May 15, 1967, New York City
U.S. painter whose realistic depictions of everyday urban scenes
shock the viewer into recognition of the strangeness of familiar
surroundings. He strongly influenced the Pop art and New Realist
painters of the 1960s and 1970s.
Hopper was initially trained as an illustrator, but, between 1901
and 1906, he studied painting under Robert Henri, a member of a
group of painters called the Ashcan School. Hopper travelled to
Europe three times between 1906 and 1910, but he remained
untouched by the experimental work then blossoming in France and
continued throughout his career to follow his own artistic course.
Although he exhibited paintings in the Armory Show of 1913, he
devoted most of his time to advertising art and illustrative
etchings until 1924. He then began to do such watercolours as
“Model Reading” (1925; Art Institute of Chicago), as well as oil
paintings. Like the painters of the Ashcan School, Hopper painted
the commonplaces of urban life. But, unlike their loosely
organized, vivacious paintings, his “House by the Railroad” (1925;
Museum of Modern Art, New York City) and “Room in Brooklyn” (1932;
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston) show still, anonymous figures and
stern geometric forms within snapshot-like compositions that
create an inescapable sense of loneliness. This isolation of his
subjects was heightened by Hopper's characteristic use of light to
insulate persons and objects in space, whether in the harsh
morning light (“Early Sunday Morning,” 1930; Whitney Museum of
American Art, New York City) or the eerie light of an all-night
coffee stand (“Nighthawks,” 1942; Art Institute of Chicago).
Hopper's mature style was already formed by the mid-1920s.His
subsequent development showed a constant refinement of his vision.
Such late paintings as “Second-Story Sunlight” (1960; Whitney
Museum of American Art, New York City) are distinguished by
extremely subtle spatial relationships and an even greater mastery
of light than is seen in his work of the 1920s.