Edward Hopper, Railroad Sunset, 1929
29.25 x 48 in.
Edward Hopper (1882-1967) is a well known painter of Americana. His most famous painting is undoubtedly Nighthawks (1942), which is emblematic of much of Hopper's career. Although he also painted many landscapes, seascapes, and cityscapes, Hopper is principally associated with his realist images of contemporary American everyday life. Hopper strove to portray a wide range of the American experience, such as a rural gas station, a domestic scene, a couple at home in New York, a modern office, yet whether the piece presents an idealized outdoor scene, a small business at work, or a sensitive portrait within the stylish city, there is always a vein of loneliness in Hopper's work. The figures are alienated from each other, their surroundings, the artist, and the viewer. Hopper depicts the progress of America, and all the things that should make people happy, yet they remain alone and uncertain. Railroad Sunset features no figures, but contains these themes nonetheless. Here we see this lone tower standing within a beautiful landscape with a magnificent sunset behind it. Hopper is questioning the status of this construction, which intervenes on the view, but does it detract from it? To my mind, the inclusion of a manmade element lends a profound thoughtfulness to the scene, for this isn't even anyone stationed at this tower to watch the sunset. Hopper's skill is quite evident in this piece, as he successfully expresses the luminosity of this sky. If you look closely, you can see that the sky and, to a lesser degree, the hills are rendered with looser brushwork than the tower, underscoring the disparity between the elements, but also communicating that we are seeing the distant landscape elements through the haze of the brilliant sun. While the loneliness that pervades Hopper's figure painting is still present here, there is also a sense of acceptance and peace in the face of this spectacular view.