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Edward Hopper
Photo of Edward Hopper.jpg
Born (1882-07-22)July 22, 1882
Nyack, New York, United States
Died May 15, 1967(1967-05-15) (aged 84)
Manhattan, New York, United States
Nationality American
Known for Painting
Notable work
Automat (1927)
Chop Suey (1929)
Nighthawks (1942)
Office in a Small City (1953)
(m. 1924)

Edward Hopper (July 22, 1882May 15, 1967) was an American painter and printmaker best remembered for his realistic depictions of loneliness in modern American life. While most popularly known for his oil paintings, he was also a watercolorist and printmaker in etching.

Early life and education

Edward Hopper House
Childhood home of Edward Hopper in Nyack, New York

Hopper was born in 1882 in Nyack, New York, a yacht-building center on the Hudson River north of New York City. He was one of two children of a comfortably well-off family. His parents, of mostly Dutch ancestry, were Elizabeth Griffiths Smith and Garret Henry Hopper, a dry-goods merchant. Although not as successful as his forebears, Garrett provided well for his two children with considerable help from his wife's inheritance. He retired at age forty-nine. Edward and his sister, Marion, attended both private and public schools. They were raised in a strict Baptist home. His father had a mild nature, and the household was dominated by women: Hopper's mother, grandmother, sister, and maid.

His birthplace and boyhood home was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2000. It is now operated as the Edward Hopper House Museum & Study Center, serving as a nonprofit community cultural center featuring exhibitions, workshops, lectures, performances, and special events.

Hopper was a good student in grade school, and, by the time he was five, his talent with drawing was already apparent. He readily absorbed his father's intellectual tendencies and love of French and Russian cultures. He also demonstrated his mother's artistic heritage. Hopper's parents encouraged his art and kept him amply supplied with materials, instructional magazines, and illustrated books.

"Vase" Earliest Signed Drawing by Edward Hopper
Vase (1893), example of Edward Hopper's earliest signed and dated artwork with attention to light and shadow.

Hopper first began signing and dating his drawings at the age of 10. Among the earliest of these drawings are charcoal sketches of geometric shapes, a vase, bowl, cup, and boxes. The detailed examination of light and shadow that continued throughout his career is already visible in these early works. By his teens, he was working in pen-and-ink, charcoal, watercolor, and oil—drawing from nature while also making political cartoons. In 1895, he created his first signed oil painting, Rowboat in Rocky Cove, which he copied from a reproduction in The Art Interchange, a popular journal for amateur artists. Hopper's other earliest oils, such as Old ice pond at Nyack and his c.1898 painting Ships, have been identified as copies of paintings by artists including Bruce Crane and Edward Moran.

In his early self-portraits, Hopper tended to represent himself as skinny, ungraceful, and homely. Though a tall and quiet teenager, his prankish sense of humor found outlet in his art, sometimes in depictions of immigrants or of women dominating men in comical situations. Later in life, he mostly depicted women as the figures in his paintings. In high school (he graduated from Nyack High School in 1899), he dreamed of becoming a naval architect, but after graduation declared his intention to pursue a career in art.

Hopper's parents insisted that he study commercial art to have a reliable means of income. In developing his self-image and individualistic philosophy of life, Hopper was influenced by the writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson. He later said, "I admire him greatly...I read him over and over again."

Hopper began art studies with a correspondence course in 1899. Soon he transferred to the New York School of Art and Design, the forerunner of Parsons School of Design. There, he studied for six years with teachers including William Merritt Chase, who instructed him in oil painting. Early on, Hopper modeled his style after Chase and French Impressionist masters Édouard Manet and Edgar Degas. Sketching from live models, however, proved challenging and somewhat shocking for the conservatively raised Hopper.

One of his teachers, artist Robert Henri, encouraged his students to use their art to "make a stir in the world". Henri, who influenced 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 modern art there, but unlike many of his fellow artists who imitated the abstract cubist experiments, the idealism of the realist painters resonated with Hopper. His early projects reflect the realist influence.

House by the Railroad (1925)

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 was very productive through the 1930s and early 1940s, producing among many important works New York Movie (1939), Girlie Show (1941), Nighthawks (1942), Hotel Lobby (1943), and Morning in a City (1944). During the late 1940s, however, he suffered a period of relative inactivity. He admitted: "I wish I could paint more. I get sick of reading and going to the movies." During the next two decades, his health faltered, and he had several surgeries and other medical problems. But, in the 1950s and early 1960s, he created several more major works, including First Row Orchestra (1951); as well as Morning Sun and Hotel by a Railroad, both in 1952; and Intermission in 1963.

In 1966, Hopper was awarded The Edward MacDowell Medal by The MacDowell Colony for outstanding contributions to American culture.


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 Chicago.



Nighthawks by Edward Hopper 1942
Nighthawks (1942)

The best known of Hopper's paintings, Nighthawks (1942), shows customers sitting at the counter of an all-night diner. The diner's harsh electric light sets it apart from the gentle night outside. The diners, seated at stools around the counter, appear isolated.

Gas (1940)

Hopper's rural New England scenes, such as Gas (1940), are no less meaningful. In terms of subject matter, he can be compared to his contemporary, Norman Rockwell, but while Rockwell exulted in the rich imagery of small-town America, Hopper depicts it in the same sense of forlorn solitude that permeates his portrayal of city life. Here too, Hopper's work exploits vast empty spaces, represented by a lonely gas station astride an empty country road and the sharp contrast between the natural light of the sky, moderated by the lush forest, and glaring artificial light coming from inside the gas station.

Personal life

Hopper married Josephine Nivison, an artist and former student of Robert Henri. They were opposites: she was short, open, gregarious, sociable, and liberal, while he was tall, secretive, shy, quiet, introspective, and conservative. She subordinated her career to his and shared his reclusive life style. The rest of their lives revolved around their spare walk-up apartment in the city and their summers in South Truro on Cape Cod. She managed his career and his interviews, was his primary model, and was his life companion.

Famous Works

Edward hopper chop suey
Chop Suey (1929)
Automat (1927)
  • "Night Shadows" (1921) (etching)
  • House by the Railroad (1925)
  • Automat (1927)
  • Night Windows (1928)
  • Chop Suey (1929)
  • Early Sunday Morning (1930)
  • The Long Leg (1935)
  • House at Dusk (1935)
  • Compartment C, Car 293 (1938)
  • New York Movie (1939)
  • Ground Swell (1939)
  • Gas (1940)
  • Office at Night (1940)
  • Nighthawks (1942)
  • Rooms for Tourists (1945)
  • Rooms by the Sea (1951)
  • Morning Sun (1952)
  • Office in a Small City (1953)
  • Excursion into Philosophy (1959)
  • People in the Sun (1960)
  • Sun in an Empty Room (1963)
  • Chair Car (1965)

Images for kids

See also

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