The Barber Shop Edward Hopper Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Edward Hopper was an American painter, famously associated with the 'realism' movement and one of the most influential painters of his generation.

Edward Hopper's take on the real world inspired many artists, film-makers and musicians, such as Alfred Hitchcock and Tom Waits. Works such as 'House by the Railroad' are said to be the inspiration behind Hitchcock's house in 'Psycho' and Tom Wait's 'Nighthawks at the Diner'.

Hopper was able to take what appeared to be simple straight forward images and give them a sense of purpose and meaning. He captured city life and it's inhabitants, giving a window into the lives of the underclass. His striking, naked imagery exposes everyday life and allows us to see urban and country landscapes stripped bare and laid stark.

The Barber Shop (1931)

The Barber Shop was painted in 1931 an is an oil on canvas. Like much of Hopper's work it has a modernist feel, the central character removed, reflecting the isolation of the modern age. The barber is marginalised in the painting by the light and shade of the banister and the background shadow, which frames the woman as the central character.

Somewhat like a photograph, the woman is not looking directly at us but is somehow preoccupied with her own thoughts. This serves to increase our sense of detachment from the woman and enhances her mystery to the onlooker. There is somehow some contradiction created within The Barber Shop, like much of Hopper's paintings.

On the one hand we can see an impersonal isolation created by the characters. We are not allowed to take a detailed study of them or their features in order to determine what they might feel or want us to perceive. Yet this very aloofness makes us want to look harder, to understand what we cannot see. We must look twice to discover true meaning and find a story in what may appear to be small and mundane.