To gaze at any of Edward hopper's best-known images -- Nighthawks, say, or House by the Railroad -- is not only to apprehend, but to feel, their silence. In picture after picture across the range of Hopper's work, almost everyone senses it: that inescapable silence.From Silent Theater: The Art of Edward Hopper (2007).
If one then looks to the artist's life for keys to this quiescent, yet oddly disquieting art -- and its wide appeal -- one finds silence of a different sort. . . . Hopper harbored a deep distrust of the reliability of words. For him, all art -- whether visual, verbal, aural of tactile, even just the art of conversation -- decayed from the moment of its conception until it was realized. Its medium (words especially) never fully cooperated in the process. He felt, however, that in painted images he could at least salvage a major part of that personal, interior "truth" he had set out to capture.
Among the best read of painters, Hopper early on embraced Paul Valéry's conceit that "every confession has its ulterior motive." He concluded from it that honesty's most reliable platform was reticence. From beginning to end, Hopper resisted entreaties from every side to talk about his work or about himself.
I like Hopper, although it bothers me that his faces are so crude, and I like the architectural pieces and the landscapes better than any of the works dominated by human figures. To me Hopper's genius is in conveying, through quite realistic images of familiar scenes, the full weight of his own lonely melancholy.