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[Edward Hopper’s] women do not seem to have lives apart from the rooms in which we find them. They peer out into a world, the one the rest of us occupy – and it may be with a degree of longing – but it is not their world. … We feel it as certainly as we do the assertive geometrical character of the rooms they occupy. This spatial solidity is what lends the paintings an air of permanence and fixes the woman in place, as in Morning Sun (1952):

So much so that imagining them in any other context represents only a form of escape on the viewer’s part from the imprisoning resolution of the painting. The tendency to create narratives around the works of Hopper only sentimentalizes and trivializes them. The women in Hopper’s rooms do not have a future or a past. They have come into existence with the rooms we see them in. And yet, on some level, these paintings do invite our narrative participation – as if to show how inadequate it is. No, the paintings are each a self-enclosed universe in which its mysteriousness remains intact, and for many of us this is intolerable. To have no future, no past would mean suspension, not resolution – the unpleasant erasure of narrative, or any formal structure that would help normalize the uncanny as an unexplainable element in our own lives.

Mark Strand on Edward Hopper


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