New York in 2020 feels like Edward Hopper’s city

The exterior city is what unsettles you first. Streets and sidewalks are quiet, lifeless. You see other people going in and out of shops or walking the dog, yet whenever you decide to get some air, six feet away from the occasional passerby, you feel like you’re the only person in all of New York.

(“Morning Sun,” 1952)

Then there’s the interior isolation. So much time spent in your own home (or newly transformed home office) kicks up a sense of alienation from the city that always energized you.

(“Office in a Small City,” 1953)

Who understood more about the disconnection and dehumanization bred by modern life in New York City than Edward Hopper?

(“Approaching a City,” 1946)

It’s the theme of so many of his urbanscapes: the lone man in his office, walled in behind glass and concrete; a train tunnel looking like a abyss. Depictions of roads and trains feel frozen and dehumanized.

(“From Williamsburg Bridge,” 1928)

Okay, maybe it’s not quite that eerie and still in New York City right now, at least not every moment. We have the other members of our households to break the isolation, and time with screens can make us feel connected again.

But in these days of social distancing and self-isolation, it’s pretty normal feel in your bones what Edward Hopper captured—especially in these four paintings.

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28 Responses to “New York in 2020 feels like Edward Hopper’s city”

  1. Mykole Mick Dementiuk Says:

    We’ll get by, we’ve gotten by before…

  2. beth Says:

    such a mind shift

  3. Tom Dulski Says:

    how appropriate a post

  4. Myryame Elder Says:

    Thank you for this: I had never seen any of his urban landscapes before. Former Brooklynite now living in Chapel Hill where my large yard and garden helps take the sting out of being alone so much.

  5. greg chown Says:

    The City that Never Sleeps…..
    Toronto is the same.

  6. alaspooryorick Says:

    Who understands more about the disconnection and dehumanization bred by modern life in New York City than Edward Hopper?
    A lot of people: the homeless, poor people, health workers, garbage collectors, everyone who has lost their jobs and has no plan B, people forced to choose between work and taking care of their children (since school is cancelled).

    Actually, since Hopper lived in a time of relative peace and safety, I think most New Yorkers are acquainted not only with disconnection and dehumanization, but panic, dread, and a constant fear of the unknown future.

    We are living through circumstances without precedent, which is the most frightening element of all. Hopper keenly depicts isolation, but he can’t hold a candle to COVID-19.

  7. peterkrasinski Says:

    Thanks for posting.

  8. Bill Wolfe Says:

    I almost didn’t notice the person sitting in the window in the last painting. There’s a meme going around the internet showing Hopper’s “Nighthawks at a Diner” with no one at the counter – just the empty diner. That hits home.

  9. Greg Says:

    Great connection you made. So happy ENY is still up and running, thank you!

  10. Country Paul Says:

    Everything old is new again. Dammit. Thank you for the wonderful post.

  11. Jennifer Metz Says:

    Thanks as always for a thoughtful and eloquent meditation. Hopper has indeed has captured my current feelings of isolation, but I thank u for giving me a feeling of normalcy and connection by sending out your usual posts. 🙂

  12. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    Thank you for enjoying this! I haven’t seen the Nighthawks meme but it surely suits our current situation.

    • alaspooryorick Says:

      please ephemeral, not you too!
      good god, the Nighthawks is not a stupid banal “meme.”
      as you very well know it is a PAINTING!

      • ephemeralnewyork Says:

        A very iconic NYC painting that continues to captivate!

      • alaspooryorick Says:

        Indeed it is an iconic work, and has earned its esteem. Better to leave meaningless contemporary jargon aside. Hope you agree, ephemeral.
        I feel strongly that Mr. Hopper would be appreciative. His was a serious mind.

    • ephemeralnewyork Says:

      I do agree. And I understand the contemporary impulse to turn iconic art into memes that help put our current situation into perspective.

  13. AaronInMVD Says:

    Well, this is what happens when you strip all the pretense away from Modernity. You get lonely people in small places.

  14. mvschulze Says:

    Remarkable. So relevant & thought provoking. M 🙂

  15. Kevin Says:

    Thank you Ephemeral for this and for all your posts these days. As we wile away the days in our own apts, unmoored and bewildered, its good to click on your posts and feel connected and amused.

    • ephemeralnewyork Says:

      Thank you—I feel the same way, and it’s good to connect with readers as we grapple with this very bizarre moment in history.

  16. David H Lippman Says:

    Edward Hopper was a genius.

    • ephemeralnewyork Says:

      His work is deceptive, at least it used to be to me. I didn’t really see the genius in them until I began looking at his New York paintings for this site.

  17. CW Says:

    Lewis Martin gives the same vibe in B/W…

  18. tipandjaminwonderland Says:

    I love his work and have used it as inspiration for my photography. Loneliness is such an odd thing. It reminds us just how social we really are.

  19. New York in 2020 feels like Edward Hopper’s city — Ephemeral New York – Naked Cities Journal Says:

    […] via New York in 2020 feels like Edward Hopper’s city — Ephemeral New York […]

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