Edward Hopper

American realist painter and printmaker (1882-1967)

Edward Hopper (July 22, 1882 – May 15, 1967) was an American Realist painter, best remembered for his eerily realistic depictions of solitude in contemporary American life. Sales of his prolific output were managed by his wife Josephine Hopper.

photo of Edward Hopper, 1937; photographer: Harris & Ewing
photo of Edward Hopper's studio

Quotes of Edward Hopper

sorted chronologically, after date of the quotes of Edward Hopper
Hopper, 1900: a standing female figure , drawing in black ink and graphite on paper
Hopper, 1913: 'Living Up to Your Employment System - 2.', illustration in 'The Magazine of Business', July 1913
Hopper, 1913: 'Living Up to Your Employment System - 4.', illustration in 'The Magazine of Business', July 1913
photo of Hopper, 1917: 'the artist, whose poster for the U.S. Shipping Board won first prize'
Hopper, 1918: 'Night on the El Train', etching
Hopper, 1919: 'The kirk on Rutgers farm', book-print
Hopper, 1919: 'Smash the Hun'. - his prizewinning World War I patriotic poster, reproduced here (without accompanying caption) on the front cover of the February 1919 edition of 'The Dry Dock Dial', the internal house organ of Brooklyn, New York's 'Morse Dry Dock and Repair Company', where Hopper worked as an illustrator, then
Hopper, c. 1921: 'New York Interior', oil-painting
Hopper, 1922: 'East Side Interior', etching
Hopper, 1934: 'East Wind Over Weehawken', oil-painting
Hopper, 1940: 'Gas', oil-painting
Hopper, 1942: 'Nighthawks', oil-painting on canvas

1905 - 1910

  • Paris is a very graceful and beautiful city, almost too formal and sweet to the taste after the raw disorder of New York. Everything seems to have been planned with the purpose of forming a most harmonious whole, which certainly has been done.. .Every street here is alive with all sorts of conditions of people, priests, nuns, students, and always the little soldiers with wide red pants.
    • Quote in Hopper's letter to his mother, Paris, October 30, 1906; as cited in Edward Hopper, Gail Levin, Bonfini Press, Switzerland 1984, p. 13
  • The people here in fact seem to live in the streets, which are alive from morning until night, not as they are in New York with that never-ending determination for the 'long-green', but with a pleasure-loving crowd that doesn’t care what it does or where it goes, so that it has a good time.
    • Edward Hopper, in a letter to his mother, Paris, October 30, 1906; as quoted in Edward Hopper, Gail Levin, Bonfini Press, Switzerland 1984, p. 14
  • Everyone goes to the 'Grands-Boulevards' and let himself loose.. .Do not picture these in costume, they are not for the most part.. ..perhaps a clown with a big nose, or two girls with bare necks and short skirts.. ..the parade of the queens of the halls [Paris’ markets] is also one of the events.. ..Some are pretty but look awkward in their silk dresses and crowns, particularly as the broad sun displays their defects – perhaps a neck too thin or a painted face which shows ghastly white in the sunlight.
    • In a letter to his mother, Paris, May 11, 1907; as quoted in Edward Hopper, Gail Levin, Bonfini Press, Switzerland 1984, p. 27
  • The killing of the horses [a bullfight in Madrid, he visited in June 1910] by the bull is very horrible, much more so as they have no chance to escape and are ridden up to the bull to be butchered.. ..the entry of the bull into the ring however is very beautiful; his surprise and the first charges he makes are very pretty.
    • Quote of Hopper's letter to his sister, June 9, 1910; as cited in Edward Hopper, Gail Levin, Bonfini Press, Switzerland 1984, p. 23
  • It seemed awful crude and raw here when I got back [after his return from his third and last trip to Europe, in 1910]. It took me ten years to get over Europe.
    • In a letter to his mother, c. 1910; as quoted in Edward Hopper, Gail Levin, Bonfini Press, Switzerland 1984, p. 27

1911 - 1940

  • The idea [for his painting 'Room in New York', he painted in 1932] had been in my mind a long time before I painted it. It was suggested by glimpses of lighted interiors seen as I walked along city streets at night, probably near the district where I live [Washington Square, New York] although it’s no particular street or house, but is really a synthesis of many impressions.
    • Quoted in 'Such a Life', 'Life', 102; August 1935, p. 48
  • I was always interested in architecture, but the editors [of the magazines who demanded these subjects for the illustrations of Hopper] wanted people waving with their arms.
    • In: 'Wake of the News, Washington Square North Boasts Strangers Worth Talking to', by Archer Winston, 'New York Post', November 26, 1935
  • 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.
    • Quote in Hopper's letter to Charles H. Sawyer, October 29, 1939; as cited in Edward Hopper, Lloyd Goodrich; New York, Harry N. Abrams, 1971, p. 164
  • I am interested primarily in the vast field of experience and sensation which neither literature nor a purely plastic art deals with.
    • Letter to Charles Sawyer of Addison Gallery of Art October 19 , 1939

Notes on Painting - Edward Hopper (1933)

Quotes of Edward Hopper, from his text: Notes on Painting, (1933), for the catalog of his exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art
(later published in 'Reality Magazine', 1953 (the text of his former statement is read aloud by Hopper himself as start of an [1] interview, 17 June 1959, conducted by John D. Morse], for the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institute)
  • My aim in painting has always been the most exact transcription possible of my most intimate impressions of nature.
  • If this end is unattainable, so, it can be said, is perfection in any other ideal of painting or in any other of man's activities.
  • The trend in some of the contemporary movements in art, but by no means all, seems to deny this ideal and to me appears to lead to a purely decorative conception of painting.
  • One must perhaps qualify this statement and say that seemingly opposite tendencies each contain some modicum of the other. I have tried to present my sensations in what is the most congenial and impressive form possible to me.
  • The technical obstacles of painting perhaps dictate this form. It derives also from the limitations of personality, and such may be the simplifications that I have attempted.
  • I find in working always the disturbing intrusion of elements not a part of my most interested vision, and the inevitable obliteration and replacement of this vision by the work itself as it proceeds..
  • I believe that the great painters with their intellect as master have attempted to force this unwilling medium of paint and canvas into a record of their emotions. I find any digression from this large aim leads me to boredom.
  • The domination of France in the plastic arts has been almost complete for the last thirty years or more in this country [America]. If an apprenticeship to a master has been necessary, I think we have served it. Any further relation of such a character can only mean humiliation to us. After all, we are not French and never can be, and any attempt to be so is to deny our inheritance and to try to impose upon ourselves a character that can be nothing but a veneer upon the surface.
  • It is true that the Impressionists perhaps gave a more faithful representation of nature through their discoveries in out-of-door painting. But that they increased their statute as artists by so doing is controversial.. .If the technical innovations of the Impressionists led merely to a more accurate representation of nature, it was perhaps of not much value in enlarging their powers of expression.
  • There may come, or perhaps has come, a time when no further progress in truthful representation is possible. There are those who say that such a point has been reached, an attempt to substitute a more and more simplified and decorative calligraphy. This direction is sterile and without hope to those who wish to give painting a richer and more human meaning and a wider scope. No one can correctly forecast the direction that painting will take in the next few years, but to me at least there seems to be a revulsion against the invention of arbitrary and stylized design.
  • There will be, I think, an attempt to grasp again the surprise and accidents of nature and a more intimate and sympathetic study of its moods, together with a renewed wonder and humility on the part of such as are still capable of these basic reactions.
    • Alfred Barr & Edward Hopper: Retrospective Exhibition Museum of Modern Art New York 1933

1941 - 1967

  • Originality is neither a matter of inventiveness nor method, it is the essence of personality.
    • Quoted by Selden Rodman, in'Conversations with Artists, Capricorn Books, New York, 1961
  • I do not know why I chose one subject rather than another unless I believe them to be the best synthesis of my inner experience.
    • quoted by Floyd Goodrich, in Edward Hopper, H. Abrams, New York 1971
  • It is hard for me to know what to paint. It comes slowly.
    • quoted by Gail Levin in 'Edward Hopper - an intimate biography' (1995)
  • It takes a long time for an idea to strike.
    • quoted by Sheena Wagstaff 'Edward Hopper', Tate Publishing (2004)
  • The whole answer is there on the canvas.
    • Hopper's answer to journalists - quoted by Sherry Maker, in 'Edward Hopper' (1990)
  • The man's the work. Something does not come out of nothing.
    • Hopper's answer to journalists -quoted by Avis Berman in 'Hopper, the Supreme American Realist of the 20th Century' Smithsonian Magazine June 2007
  • The only quality that endures in art is a personal vision of the world. Methods are transient: personality is enduring.
    • In: 'statement by the Chairman of the Jury', Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. 1951, p. 7
  • I wish I could paint more.. .I do dozens of sketches for oils.. ..if I do one that interests me I go on to make a painting but that happens only two or three times a year.
    • Quote in 'Travelling Man', Time January 1948
  • I could just go a few steps [from the house where he stayed in Paris in 1906- 1907] and I'd see the Louvre across the river. From the corner of the Rue de Bac and Lille (sic) you could see Sacré-Coeur. It hung like a great vision in the air above the city.
    • In: 'Portrait: Edward Hopper', Brian O'Doherty, 'Art in America', 1952 (December 1964), p. 73
  • The only real influence I have had was myself.
  • Recognition does not mean so much, you never get it when you need it.
    • 2 Quotes in 'The Silent Witness', Time, December 24, 1956
  • I am after ME [his response on the question what he was after, in his sober painting in 1963 'Sun in an empty room'.
    • In: 'Portrait: Edward Hopper', Brian O'Doherty, 'Art in America', 1952 (December 1964), p. 79
  • Great art is the outward expression of an inner life in the artist, and this inner life will result in his personal vision of the world.. .The inner life of a human being is a vast and varied realm.
    • In: 'Statements by Four artists', Edward Hopper, in 'Reality' 1., Spring 1953, p. 8
  • Partly through choice, I was never willing to hire out more than three days a week [making illustrations for the magazines to support himself, c. 1912] I kept some time to do my own work. Illustrating was a depressing experience. And I didn't get very good prices because I didn't often do what they wanted.
    • Quote in: 'Edward Hopper: The Emptying Spaces', Suzanne Burrey; in 'Art Digest', April 1, 1955 pp. 8 - 10
  • After I took up etchings [c. 1915], my paintings seemed to crystallize.
    • In: 'Edward Hopper: The Emptying Spaces', Suzanne Burrey; in 'Árt Digest', April 1, 1955 p. 10
  • It is a woman looking out to see if the weather is good enough to hang out her wash.
  • Did I say that? You're making it Norman Rockwell. From my point of view she's just looking out the window, just looking out the window.
    • Edward Hopper's reply
    • In: 'Gold for Gold', 'Time', (Josephine Hopper and Edward Hopper together interviewed) 30 May, 1955, p. 72
  • Just to paint a representation or design is not hard, but to express a thought in painting is. Thought is fluid. What you put on canvas is concrete, and it tends to direct the thought. The more you punt on canvas the more you lose control of the thought. I’ve never been able to paint what I set out to paint.
    • In: Three Hundred Years of American Painting, Alexander Eliot; New York: Time Inc., 1957, p. 298
  • They are in a high key, somewhat like impressionism or a modified impressionism. I think I'm still an impressionist.
    • Interview in the late 1950's, Katherine Kuh and Avis Berman ed., in 'My Love Affair With Modern Art', New York 2006, p.276; as quoted in 'The Artist’s Voice', Katharine Kuh, New York and Evanston 1962, p.135
    • Hopper qualified his early Paris sketches, by adding that these sketches were direct, about the 'immediate impression', while being very much concerned to represent with representing depth
  • Well, I have a very simple method of painting. It's to paint directly on the canvas without any funny business, as it were, and I use almost pure turpentine to start with, adding oil as I go along until the medium becomes pure oil. I use as little oil as I can possibly help, and that's my method. It's very simple.. .Yes, linseed oil. I used to use poppy oil, but I have heard that poppy oil is given to cracking pigment too, so I use it no longer.. .I find linseed oil and white lead the most satisfactory mediums.
    • In: 'Oral history interview with Edward Hopper' (1959, June 17), conducted by John Morse; 'Archives of American Art', Smithsonian Institution
  • [about his painting 'Approaching a CityWell' Hopper painted in 1946:] I've always been interested in approaching a big city in a train, and I can't exactly describe the sensations, but they're entirely human and perhaps have nothing to do with aesthetics. There is a certain fear and anxiety and a great visual interest in the things that one sees coming into a great city. I think that's about all I can say about it.
    • In: 'Oral history interview with Edward Hopper' (1959, June 17), conducted by John Morse; 'Archives of American Art', Smithsonian Institution
  • Though I studied with Robert Henri, I was never a member of the Ash-Can School. You see, it had a sociological trend which didn't interest me. [Hopper then proceeded to inform Kuh that his work contained no social content whatsoever!]
    • In: 'Edward Hopper' (1962), Katherine Kuh, in 'The Artist's Voice: Interviews with Artists' New York: Harper and Row, 1962:140
  • It's probably a reflection of my own, if I may say, loneliness. I don't know. It could be the whole human condition.
    • In: an interview with Aline Saarinen, 'Sunday Show', NBC-TV 1964, transcript, p. 3
    • Hopper’s respond on a comment of an interviewer about the 'lack of communication' in his painting art
  • Ninety percent of them [artists in general] are forgotten ten minutes after they’re dead.
    • In: a letter to Margaret McKellar, 14 November 1965; as quoted in Edward Hopper, Gail Levin, Bonfini Press, Switzerland 1984
  • In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts; they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty.
    • In: 'How Edward Hopper Saw the Light', by Joseph Phelan, at Artcyclopedia online
    • Hopper quoted this from Ralph Waldo Emerson's book Self Reliance, the book he loved throughout his life


  • To me the most important thing is the sense of going on. You know how beautiful things are when you're traveling.
    • 'Edward Hopper in Saõ Paulo', as cited by William C. Seitz, Smithsonian Press, Washington D.C., 1967
  • Sloan [American colleague artist who started his art by making etchings, c. 1920] not having been abroad [in contrary to Hopper himself], has seen these things with a truer and fresher eye than most.. .The hard early training has given to Sloan a facility and a power of invention that the pure painter seldom achieves.
    • In: 'Joan Sloan' Hopper', p. 172; as quoted in Edward Hopper, Gail Levin, Bonfini Press, Switzerland 1984, p. 39
  • At Gloucester [village at the sea where Hopper with his wife Jo had married and stayed during the summer of 1924] when everyone else would be painting ships and the waterfront I'd just go around looking at houses (watercolor: 'Haskell's house', 1924). It is a solid looking town. The roofs are very bold, the cornices bolder. The dormers cast very positive shadows. The sea captain influence I guess – the boldness of ships.
    • In an interview with William Johnson, p. 17; as quoted in Edward Hopper, Gail Levin, Bonfini Press, Switzerland 1984, p. 46
  • [on the question 'Why selecting certain subjects over others':] I do not exactly know, unless it is that I believe them [his chosen subjects] to be the best mediums for a synthesis of my inner experience.
    • In: 'Edward Hopper', Goodrich; p. 152; as quoted in "Edward Hopper", Gail Levin, Bonfini Press, Switzerland 1984, p. 52

Quotes about Edward Hopper

sorted chronologically, after date of the quotes about Edward Hopper
  • The element of silence that seems to pervade every one of his [Hopper’s] major works.. ..can almost be deadly, as in [his] 'Room in New York' [painted in 1932]..
    • Quote of w:Charles Burchfield (a friend and fellow painter), in: 'Hopper,: Career of Silent Poetry', Charles Burchfield, Art News’ 49 – March 1931, p. 14-17
  • I got over there [to show her watercolors in the Brooklyn Museum, in Fall of 1913] and they liked the stuff and I started writing and talking about Edward Hopper, my neighbor [the museum accepted six of him for the exhibition where they hung next to Jo's [Hopper's wife] watercolors]) .. ..they knew him as an etcher, but they didn't know he did watercolors.. ..he carried my stuff when the time came.. ..didn't have me hauling them through the subway – what a sorry sight I'd have made.
    • Quote of Jo [Josephine Verstille Nivison] Hopper, from an interview together with Edward by Arlene Jacobwitz, at the Brooklyn Museum, April 29, 1966; as quoted in Edward Hopper, Gail Levin, Bonfini Press, Switzerland 1984, p. 46
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