Eleven A.M - The Great Gatsby

7:00 AM

Edward Hopper, Eleven A.M.

"I began to like New York, the racy, adventurous feel of it at night, and the satisfaction that the constant flicker of men and women and machines gives to the restless eye. I like to walk up Fifth Avenue and pick out romantic women from the crowd and imagine that in a few minutes I was going to enter into their lives, and no one would ever know or disapprove. Sometimes, in my mind, I followed them to their apartments on the corners of hidden streets, and they turned and smiled back at me before they faded through a door into warm darkness. At the enchanted metropolitan twilight I felt a haunting loneliness sometimes, and felt it in others—poor young clerks who loitered in front of windows waiting until it was time for a solitary restaurant dinner young clerks in the dusk, wasting the most poignant moments of night and life." 
—F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Eleven A.M., like majority of Edward Hopper’s paintings, reflects solitude and missed connections. Here we see a woman staring aimlessly at events unfolding on the streets of New York. Although the outside is not shown, we can easily assume a busy morning start in the restless city, which echoes with Nick Carraway’s perception of New York as “racy, adventurous” and filled with the “constant flicker of men and women.” In the ever-expanding metropolis in the 1920s, a subtle placelessness seems to be growing as well. It is easy for individuals to feel like “just a number,” and Fitzgerald depicts just this spiritual emptiness in flamboyant lifestyle of the riches. 

Realistic, firm and direct construction of buildings was Hopper’s calling card. The straight lines on the door frames, curtains and cabinet suggest sureness, coldness even, and gives a sense of solitude to the painting. Sunlight falls on the woman, making her isolated from the crowds of solid, dark background. Outside the window we see the top of another building, suggesting a relative high place this bedroom is. Therefore the woman is physically separated from the people or events outside. With her legs slightly apart, arms resting on her knees, she leans towards the window yet still sits deeply in the chair. Hopper conveys her indifference and detached attitude from body position without painting a single facial feature. 

Similarly, Nick Carraway senses his own sense of loneliness at the high of New York party scene. Returning from Gatsby’s elaborate gatherings, he walks and fantasizes about romantic encounters with strange women. I find this idea oddly compelling. Nick prefers personal imagination of intimacy over the enforced, physical closeness at parties. His sense of solitude, much like the woman in Eleven A.M., reaches high in the restless modern urban life. 

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