• Edward Hopper Style painting, The Barber Shop At Night by Theo Michael

    The Barber Shop At Night

  • Edward Hopper Style painting, People In The Sun by Theo Michael

    People In The Sun

  • Edward Hopper Style painting, Summer Time by Theo Michael

    Summer Time

  • Edward Hopper Style painting, The Ticket Office by Theo Michael

    The Ticket Office

Edward Hopper, America's most important realist painter of the 20th century ?

You are probably familiar with Edward Hopper’s paintings, his iconic artwork capturing the loneliness and solitude of the American landscape.
His subject matter of theatres, hotel interiors, restaurants and street scenes capture the viewer’s interest, and leave you intrigued about the underlying story of the painting. It is widely acknowledged that Edward Hopper is America's most important realistic painter of the 20th century.

Many of Edward Hopper’s paintings have become iconic portraits of the American landscape, such as Gas, Early Sunday Morning, Railroad Sunset and probably most famously Nighthawks.
But are you familiar with Hopper’s early work when he was working as a graphic designer?

In 1905 Hopper starting working as an illustrator creating cover designs for trade magazines. It was a part time job he pursued until the mid 1920’s, bound to it by economic necessity.

His work as a graphic designer, for no less than twenty years, paved the way for his painting style that many are still so familiar with today.

For more on Hopper's illustrations see the video below, created for the exhibition The Unknown Hopper in 2014 at the Norman Rockwell Museum.

Hopper's influence on the cinema

Hopper’s work has inspired artists and film makers alike, notably Alfred Hitchcock in Psycho. It is being said, that Hopper’s painting By The Railroad, is the inspiration for the dwelling of Bates Motel in the Hitchcock classic, Psycho. Other film makers of note who draw inspiration from Hopper's work are David Lynch, Wim Wenders, and Jim Jarmusch to name just a few.

The impact of Edward Hopper's work is also clearly evident in many of Theo Michael's paintings.
He first discovered Hopper's work purely by chance a long long time ago...

Paintings like Edward Hopper's

Have you ever walked by a shop window and you just needed to have the item on display? You saw this treasure showcased and you can't get it out of your mind.
You don't have a justifiable reason to buy it. It is neither your birthday nor is there a real need for having this item, other than this unexplained pleasure of owning something captivatingly beautiful. 
You return passing it by, day after day on your way to work, and you know that you will have to buy it sooner or later.

Edward Hopper, an inspiration...

This happened to Theo many years ago, passing a framing shop in London's Swiss Cottage, on his way to work. The item in question was a fine art print of Edward Hopper's Nighthawks. It was the beginning of a collection and other art prints soon followed, Hopper's High Noon and New York Movie
Many years later in 2004, a Hopper retrospective at the Tate Gallery in London sparked Theo's imagination. The chance of seeing Edward Hopper's artwork close up, inspired him to take up painting full time. 

The Barber Shop At Night

Theo's most recent Edward Hopper like painting, featuring the interior of a Barber Shop in Larnaca Cyprus. 

oil painting The Barber Shop by Theo Michael

The Barber Shop At Night oil on canvas 60cm x 40cm

 Who can resist the opportunity of peeking into a lit room revealing a private scene, especially at night time when you feel safe and anonymous in the shadows. 
Theo caught this voyeuristic moment beautiful in this intimate shot of a barber at his craft. 

People In The Sun

Another recent Hopper inspired painting, sharing its title with one of Hopper's master pieces, People In The Sun. 

People In The Sun a Hopper inspired oil painting by Theo Michael

People In The Sun oil on canvas 50 x 70cm

The backdrop to the four sun worshippers is the harbour of Hamburg, one of Europe's busiest ports. Unlike Hopper, who featured a row of sunbathers on a terrace with a mountain view, Theo chose a docked cruise ship to compliment his sun worshippers. Both paintings share the juxtaposition of formally dressed characters lounging in a row of deckchairs.   

Cafe Paris in HamburgCafe Paris in Hamburg, an oil painting by Theo Michael

Cafe Paris oil on canvas 60 x 80cm

Despite its title, Cafe Paris, this painting also depicts a Hamburg scene. It features the interior of a cafe/restaurant in the centre of the city. The arched and tiled art deco ceiling is a beautiful reminder of the cafe's previous identity as a butcher's shop. Cafe interiors are a frequent Hopper theme, but it is also the isolation of each character in the painting ( no one seems to interact), that echoes Hopper's style.  

The Royal Victorian Railway Booking Office in Windsor The painting Homage to Edward Hopper, The Ticket Office

Homage to Edward Hopper, The Ticket Office oil on canvas 60 x 80cm

The above oil painting, created in 2018 by Theo is a tribute to Edward Hopper. A connoisseur will notice the reference to Hopper's Nighthawks in the background.

 Anyone familiar with Windsor however, a town to the west of London, may have recognised the authentic setting of Homage to Edward Hopper, The Ticket Office, namely the Royal Victorian Railway Booking Office in Windsor, still operational today in its Victorian glory. 

The painting Homage to Edward Hopper, The Ticket Office 

At first glance you notice a woman, her eyes closed as the early morning sun hits her left cheek. She tightly clasps a red leather bag, wearing a white and patterned dress, perhaps a little overdressed for the early hours of the morning. A single green suitcase sits at her feet. 

She looks like a heavy burden rests on her shoulders. Perhaps her evening date didn't go as well as she had hoped, or more likely, she has been working the late hours in one of the local hotels where the long shifts take their toll. We can never know for certain. She is lost in thought and probably unaware of the road sweeper's whistling, a proud old man who has swept the station for over 50 years. 

The Seamstress

Edward Hopper inspired painting, The Seamstress by Theo Michael

 The Seamstress oil on canvas 50cm x 70cm

This painting portrays an intimate shot of a seamstress at work.
The trend of working from home has recently been compounded by the current pandemic, but for many generations it has always been a way of life, especially in the clothing industry. All you needed was the sewing machine and you were set up for business. As a child Theo remembers the sacks of fabrics being delivered to his sisters, to be sown together and then picked up the following week. It was piece work and meeting your quota was imperative to make ends meet.

Summer Time
oil painting Summer Time, inspired by Edward Hopper

Summer Time, oil on canvas 60 x 90cm, painted in 2015

A sweeping Mediterranean house stretches across the canvas. Sunlight reveals the form of four majestic columns, leading the eye to the red tiled roof. The warm roof casts oblique shadows onto the white walls, which are soaking up the mid day sun.
One assumes the owners are wealthy, but nothing is revealed about them. We are unable to look inside, as both the front door and the shutters are tightly closed. The ornate gate was carelessly left open, by the postman in the early hours of the morning.
We see a female artist dressed in white. Intentionally or unintentionally we are cast as voyeurs. We try not to look but the light catching and accenting her female form draws us in. The artist wears a wide brimmed green hat, shielding her face from the sun and us. She is used to painting outdoors as she is heavily tanned. One can assume the house is not her own, and surmise she is painting it as a commission for the owners. 

Painting like Edward Hopper?

Theo never intended to paint like Edward Hopper, it is something that simply happened and has become part of his catalogue. Perhaps it is a subconscious expression of that early encounter so many years ago, that irresistible fine art print, hanging in a shop window in a London street. 

Read more about The Artist At Her Easel in this short story