Frozen sunlight: Fabulous marine art by Edward Hopper

by | Sep 7, 2022 | Maritime Art, Culture and History

The American realist painter Edward Hopper (1882–1967) is best known for his works depicting 20th-century urban life. However, he also produced a good deal of marine art that is just as haunting. In the following paintings, Hopper rendered sunlight in a way that adds an air of mystery and subtle symbolism to the works.

Read more: Beyond realism: 10 things to know about Edward Hopper

NOTE: The paintings shown below were sourced from WikiArt: Visual Art Enclopedia, which tags the first two as copyrighted. I publish them here under the principle of Fair Use. The annotations that follow each work are mine. — BU

Rooms by the Sea, 1951
Edward Hopper (American, 1882–1967)

This work is said to represent Hopper’s art studio, but it is surrealistic. Sunlight lights up two rooms facing the sea, creating geometic shapes on the walls and floors The tall glass door on the right side reveals a beautiful blue sea. Interestingly, there is no ledge outside; stepping out of the door would mean falling right into the water.

The way Hopper composed the scene is suggestive of two separate worlds. On the one hand, there is the wide open sea and the sense of freedom associated with it. On the other is the man-made sphere of solitude and isolation represented by the rooms. Hopper seems to engage in a self-dialogue in which he tells himself to get out of his artist’s shell and engage with life and the real world.

Lighthouse at Two Lights, 1929
Edward Hopper (American, 1882–1967)

A lighthouse stands majectic on a hill on a sunny day, and the sky is clear save for a few streaks of cloud. The sunlight that bathes the lighthouse and the keeper’s inn is somewhat subdued, adding to the quiet charm of the painting.

Le Pont des Arts, 1907
Edward Hopper (American, 1882–1967)

Hopper’s unique style of rendering light is exemplified by this painting. The River Seine in Paris is softly illuminated by sunlight. It looks like a long sheet of glass, motionless except for some ripples on the bottom right side of the canvas. The eerie stillness of the water contrasts with the movement of ghostly figures crossing the Pont des Art bridge.

Jo Sketching at Good Harbour Beach, 1923
Edward Hopper (American, 1882–1967)

Edward Hopper was married to fellow artist Josephine (“Jo”) Navison, shown here busy sketching on the Good Harbor Beach in Gloucester, Massachusetts. The sun is so bright that the sand is almost completely white. It is interesting that Jo’s hat conceals her face. “Artist at work. Do not disturb” seems to be Hopper’s message.

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