Furthermore, his paintings also often suggest connectedness, even in the midst of isolation. The woman in Automat may have felt like she was the only woman ever to sit alone at a table in public, but she wasn’t, of course. The painting works for me because the experience is at once unique to the woman in the painting and a common occurrence. The reason I like Morning Sun and Office in a Small City so much is that, taken apart, they show individuals isolated from the rest of the world, but taken together, they show how alike we are. We are common in our loneliness.
The thought makes me feel a little less lonely. I want to run into Morning Sun ’s frame and tell the woman on her bed not to worry. If she just waits a year, a man will sit in an office in a small city and do the very same thing she’s doing now. And since I can’t, I instead tell myself that people all over the country and the world are doing what I’m doing. That I am keeping myself apart, and in doing so am connecting myself to a larger whole.
The twist in staring too long at Hopper in the era of Covid-19 is that you see not only the similarities between then and now, but the differences. This year, I don’t only relate to the loneliness of the figures in Nighthawks, I also envy them. Unlike us, they can safely meet strangers in diners and bars. Of all the things I used to feel looking at Hopper’s paintings, longing was never one of them.
How Edward Hopper became an artist for the pandemic age | New Statesman