Comment: Edward Hopper’s Windows
Words: Jade French
Edward Hopper’s windows give a sense of the impact of loneliness even when part of a community.
From the urbanisation of New York, the bare walls of a hotel room or an ‘All American’ country ranch in a quiet field, Hopper’s characters dwell internally—never reaching their outward selves.
Quiet and self-reflective Hopper’s work echoes much of his personal philosophies. His handwritten statement began with the line: “Great art is the outward expression of an inner life in the artist, and this inner life will result in his personal vision of the world”. Combining stark landscapes of railway tracks, petrol stations and motels with figures staring into walls and out of windows this inner life resounds as the viewer wonders what the subject is thinking.
It is Hopper’s windows which create the most intriguing characters. ‘Office in a Small City’ plays with space which curves into severe straight lines. The man in the corner is overwhelmed by architecture; the air gathers around him and smothers his expression. His hand lies downwards on the table and his eyes stare out into other offices, other small spaces in this small city. The city is not named but could have any American name substituted in its place. This is impersonal and emotionless post-war America preoccupied with consumerism and mass-production. Hopper’s medium was realism and pictures like this show he did not shy away from showing his perceived reality of day-to-day life.
Then there is ‘Cape Cod Morning’. Sunlight filters through trees and a lush field beams a yellow hue. Yet the woman in red stands at a window, looking outwards, separated from the natural surroundings by glass and slatted shutters. Her window is laced in shade but her face is turned outwards to the sun, a small smile forming. Or as Jo Hopper put it “It’s a woman looking out to see if the weather’s good enough to hang out her wash”. Either way it is the internal looking outwards, a separation between the two. He creates a colliding world as the viewer looks in on the characters looking out; an eternal struggle to find the identity which is suffused beneath landscapes and our surroundings.
Whether it’s the old couple in the same room, the wife’s eyes cast down to read and the husband staring and smoking out of the motel window, or the young woman sat with her knees drawn to her chest staring at a New York skyline from a white-washed room, cheeks flushed, Hopper uses windows to show how we constantly look out and forget to turn in.