Why Edward Hopper puzzles

Our own Morgan Meis in The Smart Set:

A woman sits on the bed with her back to us. She is heavily involved in the process of what looks to be the sewing of a dress. Her hair is parted in the middle and falling down forward as she concentrates. She has become one with the simple task she is performing. That kind of thing happens to all of us every day. And there it is on the canvas.


In “Soir Bleu,” Hopper goes too far, he shows too much. He is hitting us over the head with the idea that the clown, with his outwardly clowny appearance, is actually hiding a lonesome and troubled man. It is just plain dumb. But “New York Interior” gives us a woman wrapped up in the process of acting and doing and thinking and dreaming all at once. We don't even have the faintest glimpse of what could be going on in her head, where her thoughts have wandered as she sews her dress. But we know that she is going somewhere, mentally, that her thoughts are wandering. It is in her gesture, in the absent-minded way she pulls the thread. We know that there is an entire universe of interiority unfolding within that person as she does what she does. We can see it because Hopper has so perfectly captured her in that moment of hiddenness without bursting the shell, without rupturing that thin but impenetrable membrane between the inner and outer. “New York Interior” is dangerously close to being a sappy and sentimental study of a lonely young woman. It is a great painting because it hovers so very close to being a cliché without ever crossing that line.

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