- Megan Bingham
Edward Hopper is considered to be one of the most talented realist painters in American art history. He is widely known for his haunting oil paintings of modern American life and urban architecture. He was also a watercolorist and printmaker. His works are inspiring not only to other artists, but authors as well. In Sunlight or In Shadow: Stories Inspired by the Paintings of Edward Hopper is a perfect example of how his paintings tell a story.
Hopper summed up his art by simply stating, "The whole answer is there on the canvas."¹ He took his time on his paintings, methodically planning out each detail. Hopper had three primary backdrop sources: the common features of American life, seascapes, and rural landscapes. He was fascinated with urban architecture and cityscapes. In 1925, he produced the famous painting The House by the Railroad Tracks. It is said that this painting marked the maturity of his art. His primary emotional themes are loneliness, regret, boredom, and gloom. In beautifully painted scenes, he hints at a visual climax to a frightening or tense situation.
Editor Lawrence Block and 17 other famous novelists of mystery, horror, and suspense have written short stories inspired by Hopper's realist paintings. Lawrence Block says in his introduction, "Edward Hopper is surely the greatest American narrative painter. His work bears special resonance for writers and readers, and yet his paintings never tell a story so much as they invite viewers to find for themselves the untold stories from within."
From Megan Abbott to Lee Child, each writer's story takes on a life of its own. In Michael Connelly's "Nighthawks," a mysterious detective takes on a case that is more than he bargained for in a story based on Hopper's Nighthawks, c. 1942. Horror author Stephen King writes of "The Music Room," in which a simple chuckle over the funny papers turns out to be something unsettling (The Music Room, c. 1932). "Office at Night," by Warren Moore describes the lonely and tragic life of a woman who just wants to make it in the big city after the Great Depression (Office at Night, c. 1940).
In Sunlight or In Shadow includes incredible stories and also vivid, colored pictures of Edward Hopper's works. It is quite helpful to have the painting to reference to when reading the stories. If you're a fan of Edward Hopper's amazing, realistic works or a fan of any of the authors listed within In Sunlight or In Shadow, you'll love this book.
¹Maker Sherry, Edward Hopper (Brompton Books: New York, 1990), 6.
The House by the Railroad Tracks by Edward Hopper [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Nighthawks by Edward Hopper [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The Music Room by Edward Hopper [Public domain], via Flickr
Edward Hopper, Office at Night, 1940 by Sharon Mollerus, via Flickr (CC by 2.0)