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The Art Institute of Chicago; Friends of American Art Collection

10 Artists Influenced by Edward Hopper's Nighthawks

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The Art Institute of Chicago; Friends of American Art Collection

If the old saying is right, and imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery, then Edward Hopper just may be the most adulated artist of all time. And Nighthawks, his 1942 painting of a desolate late-night diner, is his magnum opus. 

In addition to being one of the American art world’s most recognizable masterpieces, Nighthawks is also one of its most imitated. From art to film to music to poetry, Hopper’s ode to loneliness has been honored, copied, satirized, and analyzed for more than 70 years. As New York City’s Whitney Museum of American Art readies “Hopper Drawing”—the first major exhibition to highlight Hopper’s creative process, including a film series of the movies that inspired the realist’s work—we’re taking a look at 10 artists who have paid tribute to Hopper’s best-known painting in their own work. 

1. George Segal, The Diner (1964-1966)

Image courtesy Walker Art Center

Pop artist George Segal adapted the same process used to make orthopedic casts to create his life-sized tableaus, which he called “situation sculptures.” In the case of The Diner, completed in 1966, he used salvaged parts of a real diner to create a Nighthawks-esque sense of isolation

2. Tom Waits, Nighthawks at the Diner (1975)

The title, album cover, and lyrics of Tom Waits’ first live album are all Hopper-inspired. Its working title, Nighthawk Postcards from Easy Street, was changed to reflect the opening line to “Eggs and Sausage (In a Cadillac with Susan Michelson),” the third song on the album.

3. Dario Argento, Deep Red (1976)

So frequently have filmmakers attempted to give character to Hopper’s famous diner scene that it’s actually considered a television trope—called the “Nighthawks Shot”—with its own listing on TVTropes.org. Italian master of horror Dario Argento went there in 1976, when he re-created the diner and its patrons as a set for the giallo film Deep Red.

4. Ralph Goings, Tiled Lunch Counter (1979)

Image courtesy RalphGoings.com

Tiled Lunch Counter is just one of many diner scenes painted by 85-year-old photorealist Ralph Goings, whose work takes a brighter approach than Hopper in its lighting scheme but evokes a similar sense of alienation.

5. Herbert Ross, Pennies from Heaven (1981)

Five years after Argento did it, director Herbert Ross created a replica of Hopper’s diner for the musical Pennies from Heaven, starring Steve Martin and Bernadette Peters.

6. Ridley Scott, Blade Runner (1982)

Though futuristic in its content and set design, director Ridley Scott cites Nighthawks as a major influence on the look of Blade Runner. In Paul M. Sammon’s Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner, Scott notes, “I was constantly waving a reproduction of this painting under the noses of the production team to illustrate the look and mood I was after.”

7. Gottfried Helnwein, Boulevard of Broken Dreams (1984)

Image courtesy Life? Seriously. Funny!

In 1984, Austrian artist Gottfried Helnwein told his own pop culture-inspired version of Nighthawks when he painted Boulevard of Broken Dreams , an almost exact replica of Hopper’s original painting, with the former patrons replaced by James Dean, Humphrey Bogart, and Marilyn Monroe, who are being served by Elvis Presley. (Helnwein’s work, in turn, inspired the Green Day song of the same name.)

8. Joyce Carol Oates' Edward Hopper's Nighthawks, 1942 (1997)

Only Hopper himself knows for sure what the characters in Nighthawks are thinking about. But Joyce Carol Oates tried imagining those interior monologues in her poem, Edward Hopper's Nighthawks, 1942, focusing mainly on the painting’s sole female. It begins:

The three men are fully clothed, long sleeves,
even hats, though it’s indoors, and brightly lit,
and there’s a woman. The woman is wearing
a short-sleeved red dress cut to expose her arms,
a curve of her creamy chest; she’s contemplating
a cigarette in her right hand, thinking that
her companion has finally left his wife but
can she trust him?

In 2001, Oates revisited Hopper with the essay Nighthawk: A Memoir of Lost Time.

9. Wim Wenders, The End of Violence (1997)

Perhaps Wim Wenders summed up the fascination filmmakers have with Hopper when he told Smithsonian Magazine it’s because, “You can always tell where the camera is.” In 1997, he was yet another director to re-create Hopper’s unnamed diner for a film-within-a-film in The End of Violence.

10. Banksy, Nighthawks (2005)

Image courtesy iCanvas ART

Legendary street artist Banksy added his own bit of fun to Hopper’s painting with his 2005 parody, in which a shirtless soccer hooligan smashes the diner’s window in a drunken stupor.

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Noriyuki Saitoh
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Japanese Artist Crafts Intricate Insects Using Bamboo
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Noriyuki Saitoh

Not everyone finds insects beautiful. Some people think of them as scary, disturbing, or downright disgusting. But when Japanese artist Noriyuki Saitoh looks at a discarded cicada shell or a feeding praying mantis, he sees inspiration for his next creation.

Saitoh’s sculptures, spotted over at Colossal, are crafted by hand from bamboo. He uses the natural material to make some incredibly lifelike pieces. In one example, three wasps perch on a piece of honeycomb. In another, two mating dragonflies create a heart shape with their abdomens.

The figures he creates aren’t meant to be exact replicas of real insects. Rather, Saitoh starts his process with a list of dimensions and allows room for creativity when fine-tuning the appearances. The sense of movement and level of detail he puts into each sculpture is what makes them look so convincing.

You can browse the artist’s work on his website or follow him on social media for more stunning samples from his portfolio.

Bamboo insect.

Bamboo insect.

Bamboo insect.

Bamboo insect.

Bamboo insect.

Bamboo insect.

[h/t Colossal]

All images courtesy of Noriyuki Saitoh.

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Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.406E
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New Smithsonian Exhibit Explains Why Felines Were the Cat's Meow in Ancient Egypt
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Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.406E

From bi-coastal cat cafes to celebrity pets like Lil Bub, felines are currently enjoying a peak moment in popular culture. That’s part of the reason why curators at the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery—which will re-open to visitors on Saturday, October 14, following a 3-month closure—decided to dedicate a new exhibition to ancient Egypt’s relationship with the animals.

Divine Felines: Cats of Ancient Egypt” looks at the cultural and religious importance of cats, which the Egyptians appreciated long before YouTube was a thing and #caturday was a hashtag. It's based on a traveling exhibition that began at the Brooklyn Museum in New York City. On view until January 15, 2018, it's one of several exhibits that will kick off the grand reopening of the Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler galleries, the conjoined national museums of Asian and Middle Eastern Art.

The Freer has been closed since January 2016 for major renovations, and the Sackler since July 2016 for minor ones. The upgraded institutions will make their public debut on October 14, and be feted by a free two-day festival on the National Mall.

Featuring 80 artworks and relics, ranging from figurines of leonine deities to the tiny coffins of beloved pets, "Divine Felines" even has a cat mummy on loan from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. These objects span from the Middle Kingdom (2008 to 1630 BCE) to the Byzantine period (395 to 642 CE).

An ancient Egyptian metal weight shaped like a cat, dating back to 305 to 30 BCE, on view at the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Weight in Form of a Cat, 305 to 30 BCE, Bronze, silver, lead
Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 36.114

The term “cat” is used loosely, as the Egyptians celebrated domestic mousers and fearsome predators alike.

“The Egyptians were close observers of nature, so they were observing cat behaviors,” Antonietta Catanzariti, the exhibition's in-house curator, tells Mental Floss. “They noticed that cats and lions— in general, felines—have aggressive and protective aspects, so they associated those attributes to deities.”

The ancient Egyptians viewed their gods as humans, animals, or mixed forms. Several of these pantheon members were both associated with and depicted as cats, including Bastet, the goddess of motherhood, fertility, and protection; and Sakhmet, the goddess of war and—when appeased—healing. She typically has a lion head, but in some myths she appears as a pacified cat.

A limestone sculptor's model of a walking lion, on display at the Smithsonian's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.
Sculptor's Model of a Walking Lion, ca. 664 to 630 BCE, limestone
Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 33.190

While Bastet was a nurturer, Sakhmet—whose name means “The Powerful One”—could use her mighty force to either slay or safeguard humanity. These characterizations are typical of the ancient Egyptian worldview, which perceived the universe in dualistic terms. “There’s always a positive and a negative,” Catanzariti explains.

Contrary to popular belief, however, ancient Egyptians did not view cats themselves as gods. “The goddess Sakhmet does have the features as a lion, or in some cases as a cat, but that doesn’t mean that the Egyptians were worshipping cats or lions,” Catanzariti says. Instead, they were simply noting and admiring her feline traits. This practice, to an extent, also extended to royalty. Kings were associated with lions and other large cats, as they were the powerful protectors of ancient Egypt’s borders.

These myriad associations prompted Egyptians to adorn palaces, temples, protective amulets, ceremonial vessels, and accessories with cat images. Depending on their context, these renderings symbolized everything from protection and power to beauty and sexuality. A king’s throne might have a lion-shaped support, for example, whereas a woman’s cosmetics case might be emblazoned with a cat-headed female goddess of motherhood and fertility.

An ancient Egyptian figurine of a standing lion-headed goddess, on display at the Smithsonian's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.
Figurine of a Standing Lion-Headed Goddess, 664 to 630 BCE, Faience
Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.943E

While cats were linked with heavenly figures and kings, they were also popular domestic pets. Their ability to catch vermin made them an important addition to households, and owners loved and anthropomorphized their pets just like we do today.

Egyptians often named, or nicknamed, their children after animals; Miit (cat) was a popular moniker for girls. It's said that entire households shaved their eyebrows in mourning if a house cat died a natural death. Some also believe that cats received special legal protection. (Not all cats were this lucky, however, as some temples bred kittens specifically to offer their mummified forms to the gods.) If a favorite cat died, the Egyptians would bury them in special decorated coffins, containers, and boxes. King Tutankhamen, for example, had a stone sarcophagus constructed just for his pet feline.

An ancient Egyptian bronze cat head adorned with gold jewelry, on display at the Smithsonian's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.
Cat's Head, 30 BCE. to third century CE, bronze, gold
Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 36.114

“Divine Felines” breaks down these facts, and more, into five thematic sections, including “Cats and Kings"; “Cats and Gods”; “Cats and Death”; “Cats and Protection”; and “Dogs as Guardians and Hunters.” Yes, there’s also an exhibition section for dog lovers—“a small one,” Catanzariti laughs, that explains why canines were associated with figures like Anubis, the jackal-headed god of mummification and the afterlife.

Did the ancient Egyptians prefer cats to dogs? “I would say that both of them had different roles,” Catanzariti says, as dogs were valued as hunters, scavengers, and guards. “They were appreciated in different ways for their ability to protect or be useful for the Egyptian culture.” In this way, "Divine Felines" is targeted to ailurophiles and canophiliacs alike, even if it's packaged with pointed ears and whiskers.

An ancient Egyptian cat coffin, on display at the Smithsonian's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.
Coffin for a Cat, 664 to 332 BCE, or later, Wood, gesso, paint, animal remains
Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.1944Ea-b

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