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Nighthawks
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jtucker's picture

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For the city that never sleeps, these Nighthawks sure do look dreary.

I thought New York City was supposed to be poppin' at night, but apparently not in Edward Hopper’s world. Their loneliness practically seeps into every pigment of this painting. All three of our patrons at the counter appear to be dressed to the nines, ready to take on the town, yet no one is interacting or even looks excited. While New Yorkers have been known for their icy demeanor, something still seems off.  Maybe it’s the fact that there is absolutely no sign of life outside of the café, somewhat post-apocalyptic for the person-packed city.

At the time in which this painting was made in 1942, we were at the height of the Second World War. It was still unclear who was going to come out victorious and either way, far too many people had perished for the cause. Given the context, it begins to makes sense why café goers look so lackluster.

The painting may feel a little bit melancholy, but this doesn’t stop people from flocking to Chicago to see it. In fact, this painting has such an allure, that even the rebellious youngsters from the movie "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" took time out of their busy high school ditch day to flock to the Art Institute and stand in front of the masterpiece. Nighthawks also appears in many other parodies, including one in our beloved Simpsons!

Also, I should probably warn you, if you find yourself in Greenwich Village in NYC, don’t waste your time looking for this café. While Edward and his wife Jo claim this dive was real, no one has been able to find it since. A bit suspicious if you ask me…

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Here is what Wikipedia says about Nighthawks (painting)

Nighthawks is a 1942 oil on canvas painting by Edward Hopper that portrays people in a downtown diner late at night as viewed through the diner's large glass window. Also portrayed are the exteriors of the urban structures across the street from the diner.

It has been described as Hopper's best-known work and is one of the most recognizable paintings in American art. Within months of its completion, it was sold to the Art Institute of Chicago on May 13, 1942 for $3,000.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Nighthawks (painting).