Edward Hopper was an American painter whose highly individualistic
works are landmarks of American realism. His paintings embody
in art a particular American 20th-century sensibility that is
characterized by isolation, melancholy, and loneliness.
Although one of Hopper's paintings was exhibited in the famous Armory Show of 1913 in New York City, his work excited little interest, and he was obliged to work principally as a commercial illustrator for the next decade. In 1925 he painted House by the Railroad (Museum of Modern Art, New York City), a landmark in American art that marked the advent of his mature style. The emphasis on blunt shapes and angles and the stark play of light and shadow were in keeping with his earlier work, but the mood—which was the real subject of the painting—was new: It conveyed an atmosphere of all-embracing loneliness and almost eerie solitude.
Hopper continued to work in this style for the rest of his life, refining and purifying it but never abandoning its basic principles. Most of his paintings portray scenes in New York or New England, both country and city scenes, all with a spare, homely quality—deserted streets, half-empty theaters, gas stations, railroad tracks, rooming houses. One of his best-known works, Nighthawks (1942, Art Institute of Chicago), shows an all-night café, its few uncommunicative customers illuminated in the pitiless glare of electric lights.
Although Hopper's work was outside the mainstream of mid-20th-century
abstraction, his simplified schematic style was one of the influences
on the later representational revival and on pop art. He died
May 15, 1967, in New York City.