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There are many stories that can be imagined from the Edward Hopper painting, Office at Night, and many people have done just that.

This painting has inspired poems, short stories, and even a novella published as a serial, so there is no shortage of written material if one wants to read a story about this office scene. In the sketched studies for his painting, that piece of paper on the floor (blown off the desk or dropped?), is not present; it only appears in the final version of the painting. This can mean something or it can mean nothing; that’s for the viewer (or writer) to figure out.

In his notes, Hopper calls the woman in the painting, “Shirley,” although the model he used was his wife, the painter, Josephine Nivison (she modeled for a number of his paintings). He also has a couple of different names for the painting in his notes: Confidentially Yours and Room 1005, which only add to the mystery of this image.

Many of Hopper’s works can be seen to have suggestive meanings, sometimes due to the presence of a woman who may only be partially clothed, or even nude, as in A Woman in the Sun. Of course, in this case, it could be just something he saw from the train; he wrote that the painting was "probably first suggested by many rides on the 'L' train in New York City after dark glimpses of office interiors that were so fleeting as to leave fresh and vivid impressions on my mind."

Edward Hopper did not find success early or easily; although it was clear he had talent, he earned his living as a commercial illustrator for almost twenty years before his independent painting career began to pay off. He sold his first painting in 1911, but it would be another 11 years before he sold another one. Lucky for those of us with wild imaginations that he stuck with it!

Hopper continued to find success throughout the 1920s, with exhibitions and shows in New York, Philadelphia, and Hartford. He also sold more of his works, including 15 etchings to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the watercolor Haskell’s House to painter George Bellows. In 1930, the then-new Museum of Modern Art acquired Hopper’s 1925 work, House by the Railroad, as it’s first painting of their permanent collection. Since then, there have been many exhibitions of Hopper’s work and the last painting of his that sold at auction, Chop Suey, went for $92 million, a long way from the $1,500 that Office at Night originally sold for.


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This is an excerpt of a poem written by Victoria Chang inspired by Edward Hopper's Office at Night:

The boss is sitting at the desk the boss doesn’t look

at her the boss is waiting for the black telephone

to ring she also waits for a ring from the boss he is

waiting for the files from her


her blue dress like a reused file folder around

her body her hands tight around the files

the filing cabinet might eat her might take her hand off

the boss might eat her the boss


wants her but the boss wants money more just a little bit

more the boss always seems to want

the money a bit more the boss doesn’t hear

there are taxis outside waiting


To read the full poem head over to the Poetry Foundation

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Here is what Wikipedia says about Office at Night

Office at Night is a 1940 oil-on-canvas painting by the American realist painter Edward Hopper. It is owned by the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, which purchased it in 1948.

The painting depicts an office occupied by an attractive young woman in a short-sleeved blue dress who is standing at an open file cabinet, and a slightly older man who is perhaps in early middle age. He is dressed in a three-piece suit and is seated behind a desk. The nature of the office is unclear—it could just as easily be the office of a lawyer, an accountant or of a small business.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Office at Night