10 Paintings by Edward Hopper, the Most Cinematic American Painter of All, Turned into Animated GIFs

The image of Amer­i­ca is an image bound up with the movies. That even goes for Amer­i­ca as rep­re­sent­ed in media oth­er than film, sug­gest­ing a cer­tain cin­e­mat­ic char­ac­ter in Amer­i­can life itself. No painter under­stood that char­ac­ter more thor­ough­ly than Edward Hop­per, an avid film­go­er who worked for a time cre­at­ing movie posters. He even “sto­ry­board­ed” his most famous 1942 Nighthawks, whose late-night din­er remains the visu­al def­i­n­i­tion of U.S. urban alien­ation. And though Hop­per’s Amer­i­ca also encom­pass­es the coun­try­side, nev­er would his views of it feel out of place in a work of film noir. His cin­e­mat­ic paint­ings have in turn influ­enced cin­e­ma itself, shap­ing the visu­al sen­si­bil­i­ties of auteurs across coun­tries and gen­er­a­tions.

Nighthawks, cit­ed as an influ­ence on urban visions like Rid­ley Scot­t’s Blade Run­ner, has also been faith­ful­ly recre­at­ed in films like Her­bert Ross’ Pen­nies from Heav­en, Wim Wen­ders’ The End of Vio­lence, and Dario Argen­to’ Deep Red. 1952’s House by the Rail­road has inspired direc­tors from Alfred Hitch­cock in Psy­cho to Ter­rence Mal­ick in Days of Heav­en.

A glance across the rest of Hop­per’s body of work reminds each of us of count­less shots from through­out cin­e­ma his­to­ry, Amer­i­can and oth­er­wise. Per­haps even more films will be brought to mind by the Hop­per-paint­ings-turned-ani­mat­ed GIFs com­mis­sioned by trav­el site Orb­itz as “a 21st-cen­tu­ry trib­ute to this titan of 20th-cen­tu­ry art, for the younger gen­er­a­tion who may not have been direct­ly intro­duced to his work.”

The ten of Hop­per’s works thus brought to life include, of course, Nighthawks and House by the Rail­road, as well as oth­er of his paint­ings both ear­ly and late, such as 1927’s Automat and 1952’s Morn­ing Sun. Both paint­ings depict a woman alone, a motif empha­sized by the notes accom­pa­ny­ing the ani­ma­tions. In the night­time of Automat, she “has an emp­ty plate in front of her, sug­gest­ing she’s already had some­thing to eat with her cof­fee,” and the win­dow’s reflec­tion of lamps extend­ing into the dark­ness sug­gests her “pos­si­ble lone­li­ness.” In the day­time of Morn­ing Sun, the build­ing out­side the win­dow “sug­gests that the woman’s view is not a par­tic­u­lar­ly scenic one,” and “the fact that she is sit­ting mere­ly to enjoy the sun could be inter­pret­ed as her desire to be clos­er to the out­doors, to nature, and escape the bleak­ness of urban life.”

Even in a more scenic set­ting, like the Cape Eliz­a­beth, Maine of 1927’s Light­house Hill, an enrich­ing touch of bleak­ness nev­er­the­less comes through. “Both the light­house and cot­tage are the focal points of the paint­ing, yet despite the blue sky and calm scenery dis­played, the shad­ows bring an omi­nous feel­ing to what one would assume is an invit­ing house.” Befit­ting the work of a painter whose use of light and shad­ow still inspires artists of all kinds today, these GIFs most­ly ani­mate light sources: the blink of a neon sign, the sun’s dai­ly arc across the sky.

The GIF of 1939’s New York Movie, Hop­per’s most overt trib­ute to the cin­e­ma, intro­duces the flick­er­ing of the film pro­jec­tor. Purists may not appre­ci­ate these touch­es, but many of us will real­ize that Hop­per’s pro­jec­tors have always been flick­er­ing, his neon signs always blink­ing, his cups of cof­fee always steam­ing, and his suns always set­ting, at least in our minds. See all of the ani­mat­ed gifs here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

How Edward Hop­per “Sto­ry­board­ed” His Icon­ic Paint­ing Nighthawks

Edward Hopper’s Icon­ic Paint­ing Nighthawks Explained in a 7‑Minute Video Intro­duc­tion

9‑Year-Old Edward Hop­per Draws a Pic­ture on the Back of His 3rd Grade Report Card

Paint­ings by Car­avag­gio, Ver­meer, & Oth­er Great Mas­ters Come to Life in a New Ani­mat­ed Video

See Clas­sic Japan­ese Wood­blocks Brought Sur­re­al­ly to Life as Ani­mat­ed GIFs

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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