A Reconsideration of the Interpretation and Analysis Typically Applied to Edward Hopper’s Art During the 1940s
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This study aims to reframe the consideration and appreciation of Edward Hopper’s art focusing on the 1940s. The thesis proposes that Hopper should be categorised as a Modernist. This notion was explored by selecting and critically evaluating literature and original paintings by Hopper. The literature utilised for this research included: materials covering the social, political and economic circumstances of post-depression America, Art Historical critique of Hopper’s work and life, and the philosophical theories which influenced Modernism at the time. These theories, in particular Existentialism and Feminist writing, are here applied to Hopper’s own work. The research provided evidence to support the initial proposal, and helped draw clear comparisons between Abstract Expressionism (Modernism) and Hopper’s work. The investigation opened up new lines of enquiry, predominantly the relevance of Existential and Modern Man theories to Hopper’s work. The argument follows a journey which began by analysing Edward Hopper in terms of the social context of the 1940s, through different mediums commonly identified as modern, (such as film noir), which are used as a comparison. Existentialism is applied as a way of looking at ‘the individual’ in three distinct areas: Hopper himself, the figures depicted in his paintings and the viewer of those paintings. Once these notions of the individuals and their relationships to Hopper and the Modern are clarified, the last segment addresses gender issues in relation to Hopper and Modernism. The final discourse investigates the relationship between Hopper’s work and gender theories, notably Feminist critiques of notions of masculinity and femininity, focusing on three distinct areas: Hopper’s own gender, the genders Hopper depicts and the gender of the viewer of Hopper’s work. The whole analysis is based on Jean-Paul Sartre’s description of the possibility of stepping outside of Bad Faith into existential authenticity and demonstrates how this is observable in Hopper’s work. This enables the thesis to argue the necessity and importance of Hopper’s recognition as a Modernist.
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