A Man Walks into a Bar: Nighthawks

7:00 AM

Edward Hopper, Nighthawks, 1942

A Man Walks Into A Bar...

New York City, the city that never sleeps. Nighthawks depicts a couple, waiter, and man in a bar. All of the people are minding their own business, enjoying the quiet in the city that is so loud by day. While they are all there together, yet each of them seems lonely. Hopper said, “If you could say it in words there would be no reason to paint.” What is Hopper trying to tell us with his brushstrokes? I think he wants us to see that the restaurant is a safe haven for the night owls, or night hawks. The restaurant serves as a place for them to gather, but also stay in their own thoughts.

This restaurant on the dark street corner emits eerie light and acts as a beacon of light for the night owls of the city. As the viewer, we are drawn to the bright scene, but are shut out by huge glass window panes. Or, the windows are closing the people in. Since, the people inside are unique in that they are night owls, and so they are isolated from the rest of the city that is asleep. The painting appears quiet, inside the restaurant and out on the street corner.

While we know where the restaurant is (in New York), the painting is also universal, it could be any bar at any time. The fact that the restaurant is open at all hours speaks to American consumer culture with the constant need for a way to spend money, but furthermore speaks to human nature and cravings. In today’s world, there are many stores or restaurants that are open 24-hours, but if people can always get a beer or buy food, when do people stop and relax. Especially in the city, people are always about and rushing from one place to the next. While the night owls are buying into the 24-hour culture, they appear frozen in time, allowing the bustling city of New York to take a breath and relax.

As the viewer, imagine that all of your thoughts and sorrows are trapped, frozen in time behind those huge windows. Take a deep breath and relax.

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