10 Artists Influenced by Edward Hopper's Nighthawks

Image credit: 
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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May 22, 2013 - 2:00pm
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