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Edward Hopper, Office at Night (1940)


Walker Art Center



Institution Walker Art Center
"So much of every art is an expression of the subconscious, that it seems to me most of all the important qualities are put there unconsciously, and little of importance by the conscious intellect. But these are things for the psychologist to untangle."--Edward Hopper

Edward Hopper painted powerful portraits of American life--desolate cityscapes, sparsely populated with solitary figures. Born and raised in upstate New York, Hopper lived most of his adult life in New York City. Described by many as a withdrawn man who spent his time wandering the streets and going to movie theaters, Hopper's personality and autobiography are reflected in the lonely subjects he chose to paint.

Hopper's highly stylized images are raked with light and teem with psychological tension. Evoking the opening scene of a detective novel or a theatrical stage before the curtain rises, Hopper's paintings are filled with drama waiting to unfold. The artist, however, discussed his work in less narrative terms. In the making of Office at Night, he was concerned primarily with depicting the various sources of light in the painting. "Anything more than this," he wrote, "the picture will have to tell, but I hope it will not tell any obvious anecdote, for none is intended."

Hopper and his wife, Josephine, who also served as his model, went through a series of possible titles for the painting, including Room 1005 and Confidentially Yours, before Hopper chose the more ambiguous Office at Night. In spite of Hopper's reluctance to assign it specific narrative content, the painting is full of clues pointing to the complexity of male/female dynamics in the workplace. The piece of paper that has fallen to the floor, a detail added only in late sketches for this work, focuses the drama. How did it get there? Will she stoop to pick it up?

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Type: Commentary, object label
Source: Label text for Edward Hopper, Office at Night (1940), from the exhibition Selections from the Permanent Collection, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, December 8, 1996 to April 4, 1999.
Rights: Copyright 1998 Walker Art Center
Added to Site: March 1, 2009