Edward Hopper, Night on the El Train, an etching

United States of America, AD 1918


Edward Hopper (1882–1967) attended the New York School of Art where he studied under William Merritt Chase and Robert Henri. The artist George Bellows was a fellow classmate. Hopper first learnt the technique of etching from the printmaker Martin Lewis in 1915 while working as a freelance commercial artist. Hopper produced nearly 70 etchings over the next eight years, but abandoned printmaking after his first critical success as a painter in 1924 at the age of 42. As he later admitted, ‘After I took up etching, my painting seemed to crystallize’.

In this scene of a couple on a train late at night, Hopper places us across the aisle as an observer. He compresses a sense of psychological drama within a narrative framework. He uses his favourite compositional device of an oblique, or angled, viewpoint.  It is emphasised here by the row of seats on the right hand side of the etching.  The movement of the train is indicated by the billowing blinds and swaying straps.

G. Levin, Edward Hopper: The Complete Prints (New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, 1979)

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Image: © Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

Height: 18.3 cm
Width: 20.1 cm

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Donated by Campbell Dodgson


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