PAINTED: OLD ART, NEW SKIN – EDWARD HOPPER’S “NIGHTHAWKS”
I wanted to feature Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks,” in part because it’s become an iconic image — but also because of its meditative quality. Four anonymous individuals including the server are pictured together, yet quite alone. The fact that no entrance is displayed also portrays the diner as its own little island of light, set apart from a desolate urban evening. The four individuals, like the diner they occupy, appear islands unto themselves.
The “film noir” look, which would’ve been contemporary at the time this was painted also captures that time period’s sense of style (formal) which was an extension of people’s general approach to life (structured). It’s interesting to note that Hopper completed this painting in 1942, before the United States was actively engaged en masse in World War II.
In this dark and lonely painting, where the people presented are literally isolated in “a glass house” — do we catch a glimpse of America’s isolationist attitude at that time?
Aside from the possibility of political themes — the thing that I enjoy most about this painting (aside from its meditative quality) is Hopper’s use of color and contrast.