Le Pont Royal 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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Le Pont Royal a 1909 New Realist painting by Edward Hopper depicting a famous landmark in France. The main focus of the painting is the bold presence of the manor in the second quadrant of the image.

The castle-like edifice is painted in striking shades of yellow, gold and tan, suggesting a strong concentration of sunlight around it and making it seem natural that such a strong reflection appears in the water. Hopper also draws the viewer's eye with the small spot of red he uses on the coat of a prospective visitor in the doorway.

These features help to keep the focus on the majestic building itself, rather than the surrounding landscape and bridge (somewhat ironically, as the name of the piece refers to the bridge itself). In contrast, the rest of the piece largely fades into the background, painted in soft blues, grays and tans that intentionally blend together and become easy to overlook.

In this way, it gives the building context, but does not disturb its primacy. Instead of focusing on the beauty of the surrounding natural landscape (as one might expect a traditional classic artist to do), Hopper's artistic eye is firmly fixed on the facets of the landscape that nature did not put there.

This privileging of the man-made and artificial is common in Hopper's works, a phenomenon which critics have noted likely points to a deep love of civilization and its constructive and creative abilities. This is particularly noticeable in the way he uses water as a reflective device in this work.

It is almost entirely lacking in colour apart from the portions that are reflecting the building back at the viewer, making that object doubly noticeable. In reality, the water itself would probably have been far more richly hued rather than looking almost like an extension of the gloomy sky, but this deviation reveals that Hopper was not aiming for realism.

The inclusion of the lone figure in the doorway brings a further human touch to the scene, reminding the viewer that the reason this scene exists is to serve and enlighten people. The painting is beautiful, but in a uniquely humanist way.