Until January 28, 2013 one of the iconic American painters of the mid-20th century is on display at the Grand Palais in Paris. His 1942 painting, Nighthawks, or Oiseaux de nuit (wahzoh duh nwee), is undoubtedly the most famous of his works and it became emblematic of the loneliness of life in anonymous American cities. But Hopper’s success was a double-edged sword; this one painting overshadowed everything else that he did. This retrospective seeks to redress that inequity, yet ironically, Nighthawks is the painting on the exhibit catalogue cover.
Hopper studied at the New York School of Art. He made three trips to Paris in his formative years studying the Impressionists and post-Impressionists, such as Pissarro, Manet, and Degas, although the painting he liked best at the Louvre was by Rembrandt. He admired the Dutch master’s realism, which is apt since Hopper is one of the leading figures in the American realist movement. But then again, he was also considered to be a romantic, symbolist, and formalist, depending upon who one talks to. Hopper’s paintings, with their strong geometrical lines and clearly defined colors, present an unsentimental view of American life. His work inspired director Alfred Hitchcock, who modeled the house in Psycho after this Hopper painting, above.