Edward Hopper was best known for being an American realist painter. His work often showed exactly how life was around him. He seemed to have a fascination with artificial light and how to portray its glow in his work.
In this particular piece, ‘Gas 1940’ Hopper shows what is described on his website as:
The last car seems to have passed long ago; the attendant is shutting down the pump, and soon will turn off the lights and lock up for the night.
Judging by the light emitting from beyond the trees, I would say that the sky looks more like dawn is breaking rather than dusk. But perhaps this is up to personal interpretation. There is a strong contrast between the softness to the light in the sky and the florescent of artificial light.
The figure stands alone in the painting, almost directly in the centre of the composition, and yet it doesn’t feel like he is the true focus of the work at all. My attention is lead down the dark road behind him, into the blackened trees, and then back onto the forecourt and through the windows of the small hut. I love how the light flows from the windows and spills out onto the ground. It looks like a still from a movie, and I wonder what the attendant has seen and what stories he would have to tell.
Being British, I don’t recognise the shape nor colour of these gas pumps, but I wonder if to American’s it would now scream of nostalgia. Within Hopper’s work, I always find a silent loneliness that is hard to come across in art.
More of Hopper’s work can be seen here.