09 January 2010
The attraction is not hard to understand: there is an interest in solitude, in city life, in the solace of the night. I think Edward Hopper had, in different ways, been unusually alive to the power of the liminal traveling space. His figures seem far from home; they sit or stand alone, they gaze out of the window of a moving train or read a book in a hotel lobby. Their faces are introspective. They have perhaps just left someone or been left; they are in search, adrift in transient places.
But in Hopper’s hands, the isolation is made poignant and enticing. The twenty-four hour diner, the station waiting room, and the motel are sanctuaries for those who have, for noble reasons, failed to find a home in the ordinary world. Others in the room may be on their own as well, men and women drinking coffee by themselves, similarly lost in thought, similarly distanced from society. The woman in Automat seems in such a frame of mind, staring at her cup of coffee and shifting her gaze between the coffee and the view.