An American painter
best remembered for his eerily realistic depictions
of solitude in contemporary American life.
Born in Nyack, New York, Hopper studied commercial
art and painting in New York City. One of his
teachers, artist Robert Henri, encouraged his
students to use their art to "make a stir in
the world". Henri, an influence on Hopper, motivated
students to render realistic depictions of urban
life. Henri's students, many of whom developed
into important artists, became known as the
Ashcan School of American art.
Upon completing his formal education, Hopper
made three trips to Europe to study the emerging
art scene there, but unlike many of his contemporaries
who imitated the abstract cubist experiments,
the idealism of the realist painters resonated
with Hopper. His early projects reflect the
While he worked for several years as a commercial
artist, Hopper continued painting. In 1925 he
produced 'House by the Railroad', a classic
work that marks his artistic maturity. The piece
is the first of a series of stark urban and
rural scenes that uses sharp lines and large
shapes, played upon by unusual lighting to capture
the lonely mood of his subjects. He derived
his subject matter from the common features
of American life gas stations, motels,
the railroad, or an empty street.
Hopper continued to paint in his old age, dividing
his time between New York City and Truro, Massachusetts.
He died in 1967, in his studio near Washington
Square in New York City. His wife, painter Josephine
Nivison, who died 10 months later, bequeathed
his work to the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Other significant paintings by Hopper are at
the Museum of Modern Art in New York, The Des
Moines Art Center, and the Art Institute of
Hopper's influence on the art world and pop
culture is undeniable. Homages to 'Nighthawks'
featuring cartoon characters or famous pop culture
icons such as James Dean and Marilyn Monroe
are often found in poster stores and gift shops.
Most of his paintings also consist of his wife
as the model for his female figures. The cable
television channel Turner Classic Movies sometimes
runs a series of animated clips based on Hopper
paintings before they air their films.
Hopper's cinematic wide compositions and dramatic
use of lights and darks has also made him a
favorite amongst filmmakers. For example, House
by the Railroad is said 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'.
In 2004, British guitarist John Squire (formerly
of The Stone Roses fame) released a concept
album based on Hopper's work entitled 'Marshall's
House', each song on the album inspired by,
and sharing its title with, a painting by Hopper.
Hopper's influence even reached the Japanese
animation world in the dark cyberpunk thriller
'Texhnolyze'. Hopper's artwork was used as the
basis for the surface world in 'Texhnolyze'.