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Edward Hopper
American, 1882-1967

Nighthawks, 1942

Oil on canvas
84.1 x 152.4 cm (33 1/8 x 60 in.)
signed l.r. "Edward Hopper"
Friends of American Art Collection, 1942.51

Edward Hopper said that Nighthawks was inspired by “a restaurant on New York’s Greenwich Avenue where two streets meet,” but the image—with its carefully constructed composition and lack of narrative—has a timeless, universal quality that transcends its particular locale. One of the best-known images of twentieth-century art, the painting depicts an all-night diner in which three customers, all lost in their own thoughts, have congregated. Hopper’s understanding of the expressive possibilities of light playing on simplified shapes gives the painting its beauty. Fluorescent lights had just come into use in the early 1940s, and the all-night diner emits an eerie glow, like a beacon on the dark street corner. Hopper eliminated any reference to an entrance, and the viewer, drawn to the light, is shut out from the scene by a seamless wedge of glass. The four anonymous and uncommunicative night owls seem as separate and remote from the viewer as they are from one another. (The red-haired woman was actually modeled by the artist’s wife, Jo.) Hopper denied that he purposefully infused this or any other of his paintings with symbols of human isolation and urban emptiness, but he acknowledged that in Nighthawks “unconsciously, probably, I was painting the loneliness of a large city.”

— Entry, Essential Guide, 2013, p. 58.

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

Art Institute of Chicago, The Fifty-third Annual Exhibition of American Paintings and Sculpture, Oct. 29-Dec. 10, 1942, cat. 132.

Indianapolis, 1943.

Art Institute of Chicago, The Fifty-fourth Annual Exhibition of American Paintings and Sculpture, Oct. 28-Dec. 12, 1943, no. 15.

New York City, Whitney Museum of American Art, Edward Hopper: Retrospective Exhibition, Feb. 11-Mar. 26, 1950, cat. 61, plate 28; traveled to Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Apr. 13-May 14, 1950, Detroit Institute of Arts, June 4-July 2, 1950.

New York City, Wildenstein, Loan Exhibition of Seventy Twentieth Century American Paintings, Feb. 21-Mar. 22, 1952, cat. 54.

Venice, Esposiazione Biennale Internazionale d’Arte, June 14-Oct. 19, 1952, cat. 26.

Lake Forest College, Illinois.

New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Edward Hopper, Sept. 29-Nov. 29, 1964, cat. 43; traveled to Art Institute of Chicago, Dec. 18-Jan. 31, 1965.

Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio, Fifty Years of Modern Art, June 14-July 31, 1966, cat. 81.

New York City, Whitney Museum of American Art, Edward Hopper: The Art and the Artist, Sept. 23, 1980-Jan. 18, 1981, cat. 386; traveled to London, Hayward Gallery, Feb. 11-Mar. 29, 1981 (separate Catalogue, no 96, p. 47), Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, Apr. 22-June 17, 1981, Düsseldorf, Städtische Kunsthalle, July 10-Sept. 6, 1981, Art Institute of Chicago, Oct. 3-Nov. 29, 1981, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Dec.16, 1981-Feb. 14, 1982.

Essen, Germany, Museum Folkwang, Edward Hopper und die Fotografie: die Warheit des Sichtbaren (Edward Hopper and Photography: The Truth of the Real), June 28-Sept. 27, 1992, p. 63, ill.

London, Tate Modern, Edward Hopper, May 27-Sept. 5, 2004; traveled to Cologne, Museum Ludwig, Oct. 9, 2004-Jan. 9, 2005.

New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, October 3-December 31, 2006.

Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, Edward Hopper, May 6-August 19, 2007; traveled to Washington DC, National Gallery of Art, September 16, 2007-January 21, 2008; Art Institute of Chicago, February 16-May 11, 2008.

Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Edward Hopper, June 12-September 16, 2012; traveled to Paris, Galeries nationales d'exposition du Grand Palais, October 5, 2012-January 28, 2013, Paris only.

New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Edward Hopper Drawings, May 23-October 6, 2013; travels to Dallas Museum of Art, November 17, 2013-February 16, 2014; Minneapolis, Walker Art Center, March 15-June 22, 2014, New York only.

Art Institute of Chicago, Art and Appetite: American Painting, Culture, and Cuisine, November 10, 2013-January 27, 2014; traveled to Fort Worth, Amon Carter Museum of American Art, February 22-May 18, 2014, cat. 28.

Publication History

Gail Levin, “Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks, Surrealism, and the War,” Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies 22, 2 (1996), pp. 180-95, fig. 1.

The Art Institute of Chicago: Twentieth-Century Painting and Sculpture, selected by James N. Wood and Teri J. Edelstein (Art Institute of Chicago, 1996), p. 85, ill.

Judith A. Barter et al., "American Modernism at the Art Institute of Chicago, From World War I to 1955," (Art Institute of Chicago/Yale University Press, 2009), cat. 133.

Nina Baym et al., eds., "The Norton Anthology of American Literature," (W. W. Norton & Company, 2012), 8th edition, (ill.).

Arthur Shimamura, "Experiencing Art: In the Brain of the Beholder" (Oxford University Press, 2013), p. 237 (ill.).

Derek Matravers, "Introducing Philosophy of Art: In Eight Case Studies," (Routledge, 2013), (ill.).

Duane Preble Emeritus et al., Prebles' Artforms (Pearson, 2013), 11th ed., p. 428. (ill.).

Robert Burleigh, "Edward Hopper Paints His World," (Henry Holt and Co., 2014), (ill.).

Steven Mintz, "The Prime of Life: A History of Modern Adulthood," (Belknap Press, 2015), (ill.).

Ramsay H. Slugg, "Handbook of Practical Planning for Art Collectors and Their Advisors," (ABA Book Publishing, 2015), (ill.).

Judith A. Barter, ed. "America After the Fall: Painting in the 1930s" exh. cat. (Art Institute of Chicago/Yale University Press, 2016), fig. 3, p. 178.

"Paintings at the Art Institute of Chicago, Highlights of the Collection," (Art Institute of Chicago/Yale University Press, 2017) p. 135.

Ownership History

The artist; consigned to Frank Rehn Galleries, 1942; sold to The Art Institute of Chicago, 1942.