Scarf NIGHTHAWKS, 1942 by Edward Hopper at Art Institute Chicago

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Edward Hopper (1882-1967) is widely acknowledged as the most important realist painter of twentieth-century America.

His career benefited decisively from his marriage to fellow-artist Josephine Nivison, who contributed much to his work, both as a life-model and as a creative partner. Hopper was a minor-key artist, creating subdued drama out of commonplace subjects ‘layered with a poetic meaning’, inviting narrative interpretations, often unintended. He was praised for ‘complete verity’ in the America he portrayed.

About  Nighthawks Edward Hopper recollected, “unconsciously, probably, I was painting the loneliness of a large city.” In an all-night diner, three customers sit at the counter opposite a server, each appear to be lost in thought and disengaged from one another. The composition is tightly organized and spare in details: there is no entrance to the establishment, no debris on the streets. Through harmonious geometric forms and the glow of the diner’s electric lighting, Hopper created a serene, beautiful, yet enigmatic scene. Although inspired by a restaurant Hopper had seen on Greenwich Avenue in New York, the painting is not a realistic transcription of an actual place. As viewers, we are left to wonder about the figures, their relationships, and this imagined world.

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