"If you could say it in words, there would be no reason to paint."
"Maybe I am not very human - what I wanted to do was to paint sunlight on the side of a house."
by Edward Hopper
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.
by Wallace Stevens
Rooms by the Sea (1951)
Hopper first began painting the effects of sunlight as a young art student in Paris, and this interest continued throughout his career. As a mature artist, he lived and worked in New York City and spent most of his summers on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. He designed and built a sunny, secluded studio at Truro on the bluff overlooking the ocean. This painting is based on the view out the back door of the studio. Titled in his record book "Rooms by the Sea. Alias The Jumping Off Place," Hopper noted that the second title was perceived by some to have "malign overtones" and he thus deleted it. While the view from the studio suggested the composition of Rooms by the Sea, the image is more an evocative metaphor of silence and solitude than the transcription of an actual scene.
Sun In An Empty Room (1963)
Hopper was 81 when he painted Sun in an Empty Room, his last great painting. The original plan for the picture included a human figure, but in the end, the patch of light and the wind-swept trees were enough. "Whether we like it or not," Hopper wrote, "we are all bound to the earth with our experience of life and the reactions of the mind, heart, and eye, and our sensations, by no means, consist entirely of form, color, and design." This was meant as a swipe at the Abstract Expressionists working a few blocks north of Washington Square, and yet—as that "by no means" suggests—Hopper's vision was pushing him inexorably toward abstraction. Sun in an Empty Room has the meditative weight of Rothko's saturated canvases as well as something of Richard Diebenkorn's refracted light in his California paintings of the 1960s. Hopper, and American art, had come a long way since Summer Interior, but that patch of light on the floor carries a similar emotional freight. The empty space is not so much unfurnished as cleared of furniture, like a room for rent, or an opening for the unconscious.