“‘All I wanted to do was paint sunlight on the side of a house,’ said Edward Hopper (or words to that effect), and there have been legions of poets and filmmakers obsessed with light. I would side with the irrational visionary romantic who says light came first, and darkness but a fleeting shadow to be swept away with more light. (“More light!” cried the great poet, dying.) Poets and painters are the natural bearers of it, and all I ever wanted to do was paint light on the walls of life.”[i]
Painters and poets are indeed the natural bearers of light. And, it would be difficult to overestimate the influence that Edward Hopper has had on later artists. Gail Levin has explained this very succinctly in her essay “Edward Hopper: His Legacy for Artists.” She writes: “Many contemporary painters work on Hopperesque themes in a realist style that he would have respected. Cape Cod scenes by both Philip Koch and John Dowd have been compared to Hopper’s work. . . . Walter Hatke’s Room of the Sun (1979) was one of many pictures in which he explored painting sunlight in interiors in a way suggestive of Hopper’s focus on light, particularly in the latter’s celebrated Sun in an Empty Room (1963). Hopper’s themes reappear in the gas stations, street corners, and trains of George Nick, who studied with Hopper’s friend and admirer Edwin Dickinson….”[ii]
Hopper has also had an influence on several contemporary writers such as John Hollander, Tess Gallagher, Galway Kinnell, Mark Strand and especially Lawrence Ferlinghetti. As a poet, Ferlinghetti has written about artists from every period. He often uses the analogy for being an artist as ‘walking on a tightrope’ and applies this to everyone from Charlie Chaplin to Goya, from Morris Graves to Picasso, and from Marc Chagall to Edward Hopper. In fact, he has paid great attention to Hopper in several poems and the two collections titled “Pictures of the Gone World” and “How to Paint Sunlight.” In particular Ferlinghetti was inspired by a photographic portrait of Edward Hopper taken by Arnold Newman in front of Hopper’s house in Truro, Massachusetts in 1960.
[i] Ferlinghetti, Lawrence; How to Paint Sunlight; New Directions Publishing Corporation; New York, New York; 2001; p. ix.
[ii] Lyons, Deborah and Adam D. Weinberg; Edward Hopper and the American Imagination; (including the essay “Edward Hopper: His Legacy for Artists” by Gail Levin); W. W. Norton & Company; New York and London; 1995; pp. 115-116.
[iii] Ferlinghetti, Lawrence; “At the Hopper house” Pictures of the gone world; City Lights Publishing; San Francisco, California; 1995; #37.