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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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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief
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What Happened to Jamie and Aurelia From Love Actually?
May 26, 2017
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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief

Fans of the romantic-comedy Love Actually recently got a bonus reunion in the form of Red Nose Day Actually, a short charity special that gave audiences a peek at where their favorite characters ended up almost 15 years later.

One of the most improbable pairings from the original film was between Jamie (Colin Firth) and Aurelia (Lúcia Moniz), who fell in love despite almost no shared vocabulary. Jamie is English, and Aurelia is Portuguese, and they know just enough of each other’s native tongues for Jamie to propose and Aurelia to accept.

A decade and a half on, they have both improved their knowledge of each other’s languages—if not perfectly, in Jamie’s case. But apparently, their love is much stronger than his grasp on Portuguese grammar, because they’ve got three bilingual kids and another on the way. (And still enjoy having important romantic moments in the car.)

In 2015, Love Actually script editor Emma Freud revealed via Twitter what happened between Karen and Harry (Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman, who passed away last year). Most of the other couples get happy endings in the short—even if Hugh Grant's character hasn't gotten any better at dancing.

[h/t TV Guide]

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