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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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Despite significant problems in his personal life, Hopper was a respected artist whose opinions held weight.

Here we examine some quotes from Edward Hopper's life, and also offer up some opinions about him from other related figures.

Understand the artist through his quotes

Many of the quotes below help us to understand more about how Hopper viewed his work. It also helps to explain why he chose the styles that he chose, plus his views towards the rise of Abstract Expressionists like Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock. Hopper was a complex man in many ways but this was not suggested in his work, where simplicity of detail was key.

He reduced locations from cities and more rural areas into a contemporary approach which immediately drew interest from the public. He rarely featured more than one or two people within his paintings, and often used his wife to model for him. Hopper created American life as it was then, but deep down below the canvas were messages about the direction that society was heading. His observations are even more the case now, such as the prevalence of loneliness within heavily built up areas.

Discussing his unique art

Hopper often spoke about how expression was important within work and whilst being classed as a realist, where precision and accuracy is most important, Hopper actually thought deeply about the scenes that he was producing. In some cases, he would even create worlds of his own, imaginary locations which were fusions of items that he had already come across in real life.

This enabled him a greater flexibility to produce just the precise messages that he had desired, rather than attempting to alter what was in front of him. For many these scenes serve as a historical record about a bygone era in the US, which younger generations will be relatively ignorant of, but perhaps keen to learn more. For others, they may represent better times, where life was simpler and less impacted by the advancements of technology that we see so much today.

Although the Abstract Expressionists would steal some of his thunder, ultimately, many still prefer this approach, where contemporary artistic styles are combined with relatively traditional content.

Famous Quotes by Edward Hopper

After all, we are not French and never can be, and any attempt to be so is to deny our inheritance and to try to impose upon ourselves a character that can be nothing but a veneer upon the surface.

Great art is the outward expression of an inner life in the artist, and this inner life will result in his personal vision of the world.

If you could say it in words there would be no reason to paint.

If the technical innovations of the Impressionists led merely to a more accurate representation of nature, it was perhaps of not much value in enlarging their powers of expression.

I find linseed oil and white lead the most satisfactory mediums.

In general it can be said that a nation's art is greatest when it most reflects the character of its people.

In its most limited sense, modern, art would seem to concern itself only with the technical innovations of the period.

I trust Winsor and Newton and I paint directly upon it.

It is no transcription of a place, but pieced together from sketches and mental impressions of things in the vicinity. The dry, blowing grass can be seen from my studio window in the late summer or autumn. In the woman I attempted to get the broad, strong-jawed face and blond hair of a Finnish type of which there are many on the Cape. The man is a dark-haired Yankee. The dog is listening to something, probably a whippoorwill or some evening sound.

Artist describing Cape Cod Evening

Maybe I am not very human - what I wanted to do was to paint sunlight on the side of a house.

More of me comes out when I improvise.

No amount of skillful invention can replace the essential element of imagination.

The trend in some of the contemporary movements in art, but by no means all, seems to deny this ideal and to me appears to lead to a purely decorative conception of painting.

The only real influence I've ever had was myself.

The question of the value of nationality in art is perhaps unsolvable.

Well, I've always been interested in approaching a big city in a train, and I can't exactly describe the sensations, but they're entirely human and perhaps have nothing to do with aesthetics.

Quotes about Edward Hopper by Art Historians and Fellow Artists

Despite commercial success and the awards he received in the 1940s and 1950s, Hopper found himself losing critical favor as the school of Abstract Expressionism came to dominate the art world. Even during an era of national prosperity and cultural optimism, moreover, his art continued to suggest that the individual could still suffer a powerful sense of isolation in postwar America (53.183). He never lacked popular appeal, however, and by the time of his death in 1967, Hopper had been reclaimed as a major influence by a new generation of American realist artists.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Hopper's enduring popularity stems from his ability to stage scenes from everyday life in a way which also addresses universal concerns. His contemplative studies of modern life, captured within the stark interiors of automats, motel rooms, diners and movie theatres have a timeless quality, transcending the hour and the place to become profound statements about the human condition. It is this quality which has inspired generations of artists, writers and film makers including David Hockney, Mark Rothko, Alfred Hitchcock, Todd Haynes and Norman Mailer.


That's what we do. He sits in his spot and looks at the hills all day, and I look at the ocean, and when we meet there's controversy, controversy, controversy.

Jo Hopper

Luminous, spare, and evocative—the paintings of Edward Hopper are affectionate observations of American life featuring subjects that range from diners, hotel lobbies, offices, and theaters in New York City to the country houses, churches, seascapes, and Main Streets of rural New England. All of these artworks have one thing in common: Hopper’s fascination with light. He painted sun streaming through curtained windows, clapboard farmsteads in the warm glow and long shadows of late afternoon, and starkly lit interiors framed by darkness. Dramatic illumination makes Hopper’s pictures strongly cinematic, although they never offer a complete narrative. Instead, they hint at the artist’s deep love for the natural world and his intense curiosity about his fellow human beings.

The Walker Art Center

While he is widely known for his oil paintings, he was equally proficient as a watercolorist and printmaker in etching.


Hopper's influence on the art world and pop culture is undeniable. Though he had no formal students, many artists have cited him as an influence, including Willem de Kooning, Jim Dine, and Mark Rothko. An illustration of Hopper's influence is Rothko's early work Composition I (c. 1931), which is a direct paraphrase of Hopper's Chop Suey.