Edward Hopper's paintings: manifestations of loneliness and modernity.

 The Paradox of the American Dream: Edward Hopper's Paintings of Modernity and Loneliness.

Edward Hopper

Edward Hopper (1882-1967), an American painter, is renowned for his paintings that blend two contrasting facets of American life: modernity and desolation resulting from individualism and loneliness.

Through his works, Hopper depicts the isolation of modernity through individuals who drink their coffee alone, spend their nights in seclusion, and traverse deserted streets where no one roams.

Hopper's paintings highlight the consequences of the American Dream, which promises individual success and wealth, but often results in feelings of loneliness and disconnection. His art captures the paradox of the American experience, where the pursuit of happiness and personal freedom can lead to a sense of alienation and detachment from others.

One of Hopper's most famous paintings, "Nighthawks," portrays a late-night diner where three individuals sit alone, lost in their thoughts, with no interaction among them. The painting captures the essence of modern urban life, where people are physically close but emotionally distant.

Similarly, in "Office at Night," a woman works alone in a dimly lit office, separated from the rest of the world. The painting reflects the isolation of the modern workplace, where people spend long hours in front of computer screens, disconnected from their surroundings.

Hopper's paintings offer a critical perspective on the American Dream and its impact on individuals and society. Through his art, Hopper reminds us of the importance of human connection and the dangers of pursuing individual success at the expense of our relationships with others.

Living in the void:

According to art critics Amanda Hadley and Peter Kjildahl, the individuals depicted in Huber's paintings are emotionally and physically detached, and not involved in any semblance of social life. Huber used space in his paintings to convey a feeling, rather than just a visual representation, to give an impression of the extent of emotional and social poverty in modern society. Hadley further notes that even paintings featuring people maintain a sense of emptiness.

Art historian Lawrence Fuller believes that Huber was not a specialist in drawing scenes from American life, but was interested in depicting the emotional and psychological structure of people lost in themselves, overwhelmed by psychological loss and loneliness that characterizes twentieth-century American society.


Huber's most expressive work, Nighthawks, painted in 1924, portrays the negative emotional structure into which the American individual has sunk into in modern, globalized society. The painting features four individuals in a dark café, situated on a deserted street, symbolizing the loss of humanity in modern society.

The painting became even more poignant after the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and the entry of the United States into World War II. New Yorkers were trained to darken public spaces and rely on dim lights due to fear of Nazi attacks. The painting was seen as Huber's reaction to the bleak days of the entire world.

Nighthawks has become an iconic work of American art, capturing the essence of modern society's emotional and psychological disconnect. The painting's stark portrayal of the four individuals sitting in isolation in the midst of a bustling city speaks to the feelings of loneliness and detachment that many experience in contemporary life.

Despite its fame, however, Nighthawks was not an immediate success. The painting received mixed reviews upon its debut, with some critics calling it "depressing" and "grim." Nevertheless, it has endured as a powerful commentary on the state of modern society, resonating with viewers across generations.

Huber's legacy as an artist is one of capturing the essence of the modern condition, of expressing the emotional and psychological realities that define the contemporary experience. His paintings continue to captivate and move audiences, challenging them to confront the darkness and emptiness that pervade modern life.

Spaces of absence:

Many unidentified women appeared in a number of Hobbes' paintings, and like the rest of the characters in his paintings, they appear in an atmosphere charged with sickness, despair and loneliness, and then after these women he painted a number of paintings in which neither men nor women appear at all, but are just spaces of emptiness and absence.

The most famous of these women is the one in the 1927 painting Automated, where a lonely woman sits staring at her cup at an automated café at night.

Although this image seems a little strange – all of Huber's paintings carry a sense of strangeness – it is now very realistic and real, a kind of understandable surrealism, in the words of critic Michael Rose.

The American Dream and Living in the Void:

Huber explores the duality of urban life in his paintings and works, which involves a consideration of the proximity of buildings and individuals, as well as the psychological and existential distance that exists between them. Huber's talent is exemplified through his ability to express the inherent ugliness of reality through painting and aesthetics. He is able to take surface-level meanings and turn them into aesthetic images that resonate with the soul and mind, setting him apart from his contemporaries.

Huber's critical view of modern and avant-garde art practitioners places him in contrast with Hegelian views on art. Hegel posits that art's primary function is to reconcile the spiritual and sensual through tangible forms and images. In contrast, Huber critiques American arts, which he believes have denied the spiritual and sensual, while ignoring the frightening consequences of the American dream.

Huber considers abstract expressionism, exemplified by Jackson Pollock, to be an illusion that the American artistic community employs to mask fragmentation, disintegration, and loss, which have characterized American society through individualism, absolute freedom, and modern patterns of life that do not adhere to the constraints of the past. This is done in a context where the art world serves political authorities to beautify the face of the dull "American dream," thereby negating the avant-garde art movements' flame of polished and genuine creativity, which first ignited during the Renaissance.

Huber's critiques of American arts can be seen as an attempt to bring art back to its roots, where it is used to represent reality, rather than to obscure it. His belief is that the purpose of art should be to confront society's ills, rather than to mask them. Through his paintings, Huber presents a different perspective on urban life, one that is not solely focused on the physical aspects of the environment but also on the psychological and existential experiences of individuals who inhabit it.

In his work, Huber shows the contradictions inherent in modern society and the ways in which people are alienated from each other, even in close physical proximity. His paintings depict the fragmented nature of society, where people are disconnected from each other, and the sense of isolation that this can produce. However, he also shows the possibility of hope and redemption, as individuals are still able to connect with each other and find meaning in their lives.

In this way, Huber's work can be seen as an important critique of contemporary society, a call to arms for artists to create art that is both reflective of the world we live in and that offers a path forward. His legacy is one of artistic integrity, of never being afraid to speak truth to power and to challenge the status quo. In doing so, he inspires a new generation of artists to use their work as a tool for change, to create art that is both beautiful and meaningful, and that speaks to the human experience in a profound and lasting way.