Edward Hopper (1882-1967) painted one of the most famous works of art in American History, the gloomy 1942 canvas Night Hawks. The painting, which shows three men and a woman at an all-night diner in an unidentified city, was the most successful work of Hopper’s long and distinguished career.
Born in New York, Hopper enrolled in art school at age eighteen. His style, influenced by the Ashcan school, epmphasized plain, realistic portraits of scenes from everyday life. Hopper’s prosaic subjects included fire hydrants, bridges, gas stations, and people reading newspapers.
In the early twentieth century, however, Hopper’s stark realist paintings were unfashionable on the art scene, and he spent the first twenty years of his career toiling in relative obscurity. To make ends meet, he painted propaganda posters during World War I (1914-1918) and even won a $300 prize for his 1918 poster Smash the Hun. By 1931, at age forty-nine, Hopper had sold only two of his paintings.
The Great Depression, however, caused a seismic shift in the art world and a major reappraisal of Hopper’s work. Suddenly, interest among art connoisseurs in European modernism waned, while painting that addressed the country’s social problems became popular.
Night Hawks perfectly illustrates the sense of urban despair and loneliness that recurs throughout Hopper’s work. The four figures in the painting each appear lost in their own thoughts and are not looking at one another. The diner is brightly lit, but the light seems harsh and artificial, in implicit contrast to the cozy glow of a fireplace.
Hopper’s paintings of forlorn cityscapes have held an enduring appeal. In recognition of his lifetime achievement, shortly before his death, Hopper was one of eleven artists whose work was selected for display at the White House by First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy (1929-1994).
Nighthawks is now on permanent display at the Art Institute of Chicago.
Airplane Synchromy in Yellow-Orange. Stanton MacDonald-Wright. 1920. Oil on canvas. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
Cosmic Synchromy (1913-14). Oil on canvas, 41.28 cm x 33.34 cm. In the collection of the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute.
Pablo Picasso, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, 1907. Oil on canvas. Museum of Modern Art, New York
Paul Cézanne, Quarry Bibémus, 1898-1900, Museum Folkwang, Essen, Germany
Robert Delaunay, Simultaneous Windows on the City, 1912, Hamburger Kunsthalle, an example of Abstract Cubism
Juan Gris, Portrait of Picasso, 1912, oil on canvas, Art Institute of Chicago
“View of Toledo” by El Greco, 1595/1610 has been indicated to have a particularly striking resemblance to 20th-century expressionism. Historically however it is an example of Mannerism.
Wassily Kandinsky, On White II, 1923
Alvar Cawén, Sokea soittoniekka (Blind Musician), 1922
Rehe im Walde (Deer in Woods), 1914, by Franz Marc
August Macke, Lady in a Green Jacket, 1913
Franz Marc, Fighting Forms, 1914.
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Nollendorfplatz, 1912
Clyfford Still, 1957-D No. 1. During the 1950s Still’s paintings were characterized as being related to Color Fields
Mark Rothko, No. 61 (Rust and Blue), 1953, 115 cm × 92 cm (45 in × 36 in). Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
Robert Motherwell’s acrylic with pencil and charcoal on canvas ‘Elegy to the Spanish Republic No. 110’ 1971. , 82 x 114 inches. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
Paul Sérusier: The Bois d’Amour à Pont-Aven: The Talisman (Le Talisman), 1888, oil on wood, 27 x 21,5 cm Musée d’Orsay, Paris
Paul Ranson, Nabis Landscape, 1890
Pierre Bonnard, The Dining Room in the Country, 1913, Collection Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Claude Monet, Impression, soleil levant (Impression, Sunrise), 1872, oil on canvas, Musée Marmottan
Alfred Sisley, Bridge at Villeneuve-la-Garenne, 1872, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette (Bal du moulin de la Galette), Musée d’Orsay, 1876
Claude Monet, Woman with a Parasol, (Camille and Jean Monet), 1875, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Camille Pissarro, Boulevard Montmartre, 1897, the Hermitage, St. Petersburg
Mary Cassatt, Lydia Leaning on Her Arms (in a theatre box), 1879
Berthe Morisot, Reading, 1873, Cleveland Museum of Art
Edgar Degas, Dancers at The Bar, 1888, The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.
Gustave Caillebotte, (1848–1894), Paris Street, Rainy Day, 1877. Art Institute of Chicago
Claude Monet, Water Lilies, 1916, The National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo
Edgar Degas, L’Absinthe, 1876, Musée d’Orsay, Paris
Rayonism (or Rayonnism) is a style of abstract art that developed in Russia in 1911.
Mikhail Larionov and Natalia Goncharova developed rayonism after hearing a series of lectures about Futurism by Marinetti in Moscow. The Futurists took speed, technology and modernity as their inspiration, depicting the dynamic character of early 20th century life. They glorified war and the machine age, and favoured the growth of Fascism.
The Rayonists sought an art that floated beyond abstraction, outside of time and space, and to break the barriers between the artist and the public. They derived the name from the use of dynamic rays of contrasting color, representing lines of reflected light — crossing of reflected rays from various objects.
At the 1913 Target exhibition they introduced the style to the public. In their literature they described Rayonism as naturally encompassing all existing styles and forms of the art of the past, as they, like life, are simply points of departure for a Rayonist perception and construction of a picture.
Larionov and Goncharova also wrote:
The style of Rayonnist painting that we advance signifies spatial forms which are obtained arising from the intersection of the reflected rays of various objects, and forms chosen by the artist’s will. The ray is depicted provisionally on the surface by a colored line. That which is valuable for the lover of painting finds its maximum expression in a rayonnist picture. The objects that we see in life play no role here, but that which is the essence of painting itself can be shown here best of all–the combination of color, its saturation, the relation of colored masses, depth, texture.
We do not sense the object with our eye, as it is depicted conventionally in pictures and as a result of following this or that device; in fact, we do not sense the object as such. We perceive a sum of rays proceeding from a source of light; these are reflected from the object and enter our field of vision.
Consequently, if we wish to paint literally what we see, then we must paint the sum of rays reflected from the object. But in order to receive the total sum of rays from the desired object, we must select them deliberately — because together with the rays of the object being perceived, there also fall into our range of vision reflected reflex rays belonging to other nearby objects. Now, if we wish to depict an object exactly as we see it, then we must depict also these reflex rays belonging to other objects — and then we will depict literally what we see …
Now, if we concern ourselves not with the objects themselves but with the sums of rays from them, we can build a picture in the following way:
The sum of rays from object A intersects the sum of rays from object B; in the space between them a certain form appears, and this is isolated by the artist’s will . . .
Perception, not of the object itself, but of the sum of rays from it, is, by its very nature, much closer to the symbolic surface of the picture than is the object itself. This is almost the same as the mirage which appears in the scorching air of the desert and depicts distant towns, lakes, and oases in the sky (in concrete instances). Rayonism erases the barriers that exist between the picture’s surface and nature.
A ray is depicted provisionally on the surface by a colored line.
René François Ghislain Magritte (21 November 1898 – 15 August 1967) was a Belgian surrealist artist. He became well known for a number of witty and thought-provoking images that fell under the umbrella of surrealism. His work challenges observers’ preconditioned perceptions of reality.
Oil on canvas
Museum of Modern Art, New York
(The main subject of the painting, a blood-smeared nude woman, is seen lying on a couch. The assassin of the painting’s title, a well-dressed man, stands ready to leave, his coat and hat on a chair next to his bag. He is however delayed by the sound of music, and in an unhurriedly relaxed manner, listens to a gramophone. In the meantime, two men armed with club and net wait in the foyer to ensnare him, while three more men also watch from over the balcony.
Oil on Canvas
National Museum, Cardiff
In his essay Words and Images, published in 1929, Magritte observed that each image “suggests that there are others behind it”. Viewed through a freestanding frame of irregular shape, these images are a sky, a lead curtain festooned with sleigh bells, a house façade, a sheet of paper cut-outs, a forest and a fire.
The title evokes the fear of the invisible which pervades the artist’s work and reflects the surrealists’ fascination with the subconscious. The painting was purchased in 1973 and is usually on display in the National Museum of Wales.
Oil on canvas
The title is taken from the Johann Wolfgang von Goethe book Elective Affinities.
Magritte had the following to say about this work:
One night, I woke up in a room in which a cage with a bird sleeping in it had been placed. A magnificent error caused me to see an egg in the cage, instead of the vanished bird. I then grasped a new and astonishing poetic secret, for the shock which I experienced had been provoked precisely by the affinity of two objects — the cage and the egg — to each other, whereas previously this shock had been caused by my bringing together two objects that were unrelated.
Oil on canvas
National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.
The Human Condition (La condition humaine) generally refers to two similar oil on canvas paintings by the Belgian surrealist René Magritte. One was completed in 1933 and is in the collection of the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC. The other was completed in 1935 and is part of the Simon Spierer Collection in Geneva, Switzerland. A number of drawings of the same name exist as well, including one at the Cleveland Museum of Art
Oil on canvas
Simon Spierier Collection, Geneva, Switzerland
Oil on canvas
Art Institute of Chicago
The painting depicts a “Black Five” locomotive jutting out of a fireplace, at full speed, in an empty room. Only the clock and left candlestick are reflected in the mirror on the mantle, suggesting that there are neither people nor furniture in the room. Notably, the candlestick on the right has no reflection.
The painting was one of many done for surrealist patron and Magritte supporter Edward James. This was the second painting delivered to James for his London ballroom. The first was the portrait of James, Not to be Reproduced. Time Transfixed was purchased by the Art Institute from James in 1970 when he was raising capital to build his surrealist sculpture garden Las Pozas.
The title of the painting translates to English literally as “Ongoing Time Stabbed by a Dagger” and Magritte was reportedly unhappy with the generally accepted translation of “Time Transfixed”. Magritte hoped that James would hang the painting at the base of his staircase so that the train would “stab” guests on their way up to the ballroom. James instead chose to hang the painting above his own fireplace.
Magritte described his motivation for this painting:
“I decided to paint the image of a locomotive . . . In order for its mystery to be evoked, another immediately familiar image without mystery—the image of a dining room fireplace—was joined.”
Oil on canvas
Magritte painted The Son of Man as a self-portrait. The painting consists of a man in an overcoat and a bowler hat standing in front of a short wall, beyond which is the sea and a cloudy sky. The man’s face is largely obscured by a hovering green apple. However, the man’s eyes can be seen peeking over the edge of the apple. Another subtle feature is that the man’s left arm appears to bend backwards at the elbow.
About the painting, Magritte said:
At least it hides the face partly. Well, so you have the apparent face, the apple, hiding the visible but hidden, the face of the person. It’s something that happens constantly. Everything we see hides another thing, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see. There is an interest in that which is hidden and which the visible does not show us. This interest can take the form of a quite intense feeling, a sort of conflict, one might say, between the visible that is hidden and the visible that is present.
The Son of Man resembles The Great War on Façades (La Grande Guerre Façades), another Magritte painting featuring similar imagery. Both feature a person standing in front of a wall overlooking the sea. The Great War on Façades, however, features a woman holding an umbrella, her face covered by a flower. There is also Man in the Bowler Hat, a similar painting where the man’s face is obscured by a bird rather than an apple.
Dalí was highly imaginative, and also had an affinity for partaking in unusual and grandiose behavior. His eccentric manner and attention-grabbing public actions sometimes drew more attention than his artwork to the dismay of those who held his work in high esteem and to the irritation of his critics.