Nighthawks is cold, hard proof that social isolation and alienation predates the internet age.
Painted in 1942, Edward Hopper captures the disconnected, anxious atmosphere of WWII American. It’s a highly specific painting that screams 1940s USA. Hopper was a major theatre fan, and the composition of the piece takes inspiration from movie reels. The brightly light restaurant scene may also have been inspired by Hemingway’s short story’ The Killers. But, despite the period attire of the figures in seated at the diner, Nighthawk communicates a universal sense of loneliness.
It’s that easily relatable mood that has spawned many a Hopper parody.
There’s a Star War’s version:
A Sesame Street rendition:
And an updated, 2016 version, if you will:
The isolation and sense of foreboding in Nighthawks easily fits into the post-9/11, post-Great Recession, internet world. But, it also shows a complicated past that defies slogans like “make America great again.” Many Americans look to the past as happier, more harmonious time for the country. But, Hopper’s images of America’s great generation in the 40s and 50s, shows a more complicated reality. One where uncertainty and alienation pervaded the national psyche.
Hooper is the ultimate American storyteller. He never ran off to Europe to paint the canals of Venice or the boulevards of Paris. Hooper aimed to capture reality in his country as he saw it. The straightforward nature of his paintings is pretty American in and of itself. Making his work a rather appropriate fit for a certain office in a certain white house.