Like the 1942 Night Hawks, The City (which was completed in 1927) it is a timeless masterpiece which is an evidence of Hopper’s remarkable talent in giving an ordinary and familiar cityscape a deep feeling of mystery.
Style and Technique
In The City, Hopper uses oil on canvas, taking a New Realism style. Like most of his paintings, The City is not place-specific. It could be depicting a part of any large city. What is most striking, however, is the loneliness and isolation of the scene. There is a resounding sense of emptiness and quietness which leads the viewer into thinking that the city is either abandoned or its inhabitants are indoors, possibly asleep.
Like every great artist, Hopper was influenced by several people he came across in his lifetime. They include Thomas Eakins, a 19th century painter who inspired him into the world of realism. Hopper’s tendency and ability to knock down constructions to small details and then make them anew while giving them a deep emotional presence through the use of sometimes sharp shadows and harsh light while maintaining a deeply troubling stillness at the middle of it all was probably obtained from 19th century French painters like Monet and Degas who were Impressionists.
Nevertheless, his biggest influence is New York School of Art instructor, Robert Henri, the pioneer of American Realism who inspired depiction of urban life by his students.
Born in 1882 and with his death in 1967, Hopper had to make a living illustrating magazines and books for a long time. However, he was not happy having to come up with the caricatured mannerisms for his characters and following the strict editorial guidelines. It was only at the age of 42 that he was discovered, and his star as one of the most talented 20th century American realists began to shine with the completion of The City, Night Hawks, and Approaching a City. His goal, in his own words, was to depict the sadness and desolation of the urban landscape.