Today 'Squam River in Massachusetts is full of boats and jetties, markers of very different lifestyles to those depicted by Hopper. Where he saw an empty- yet not lonely- landscape full of frontiers to be explored, today there are an inexhaustible variety of ways to push back the boundaries of the world we know to find the places we don't.
In essence this is what sets apart Hopper's 'American Realism' approach to painting from the Cubist and Surrealist styles that were popular in Europe at the time. Whereas Picasso sought to express the character of his subjects through his works, Hopper instead talks about himself through his.
House by 'Squam River was painted shortly after Hopper's marriage to Josephine Nivision. The work should be full of the drama of a windy day, but instead it is full of calm and peace. A river runs gently through what could be a lonely landscape but instead is a sheltered community; a group of individuals- none alike- adding to their environment and enjoying the sunshine together.
Contrast this with later pieces such as 'Nighthawk' and it is easy to mark the differences. The juxtaposition between city living and countryside life is both strong and the opposite of normal stereotypes. The city seems full of solitary living and lonely darkness in contrast to the brightness of the community of House by 'Squam River.
It is a quintessentially American piece. The sense of space, the sunlight across the wood-clad houses are suggestive of the vast rural American landscape which Hopper took so much inspiration from.