How Cinema Inspired Edward Hopper’s Great Paintings, and How Edward Hopper Inspired Great Filmmakers

Edward Hop­per is as Amer­i­can as blue jeans, Coca-Cola, and urban alien­ation, and Amer­i­can in essen­tial­ly the same way: his work is root­ed deeply enough in Amer­i­can cul­ture to be iden­ti­fi­able with it, yet shal­low­ly enough to allow adapt­abil­i­ty into many oth­er cul­tures as well. “All the paint­ings of Edward Hop­per could be tak­en from one long movie about Amer­i­ca, each one the begin­ning of a new scene.” These words come from the Ger­man film­mak­er Wim Wen­ders, who paid direct trib­ute to Hop­per a quar­ter-cen­tu­ry ago in The End of Vio­lence, and more recent­ly re-cre­at­ed a host of his works in the 3D instal­la­tion Two or Three Things I Know About Edward Hop­per.

Wen­ders may be the par­a­dig­mat­ic Hop­per fan of our time, in part because he makes movies, and in part because he isn’t Amer­i­can. That the influ­ence of Hop­per, the most cin­e­mat­ic of all Amer­i­can painters, man­i­fests in films from all over the world is made clear in the Great Art Explained video essay above. (It sup­ple­ments a pre­vi­ous episode on Hop­per’s Nighthawks.)

Its cre­ator James Payne turns up Hop­per-inspired imagery in the work of such Amer­i­can auteurs as Jules Dassin, Woody Allen, John Hus­ton, Ter­rence Mal­ick, and David Lynch — but also, and even more rich­ly, in the work of such for­eign auteurs as Alfred Hitch­cock, Dario Argen­to, Rain­er Wern­er Fass­binder, Michelan­ge­lo Anto­nioni, and Roy Ander­s­son.

“Hop­per’s vision of Amer­i­can life has had a huge impact on how the rest of the world pic­tures the Unit­ed States,” says Payne. “It is a world that, today, we still call ‘Hop­peresque.’ He is what we think of as a quin­tes­sen­tial Amer­i­can artist, yet he was also a major influ­ence on so many non-Amer­i­can film­mak­ers who saw an inten­si­ty in Hop­per, a sense of empti­ness, and a lack of com­mu­ni­ca­tion that we can all under­stand.” Such artists, in film or oth­er media, “see that the psy­chol­o­gy behind a Hop­per paint­ing can be trans­lat­ed into any cul­ture, and any lan­guage” — includ­ing the lan­guage of K‑pop, itself well on the way to becom­ing world-dom­i­nat­ing cul­tur­al form.

Relat­ed con­tent:

How Edward Hop­per “Sto­ry­board­ed” His Icon­ic Paint­ing Nighthawks

How Edward Hopper’s Paint­ings Inspired the Creepy Sus­pense of Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Win­dow

Sev­en Videos Explain How Edward Hopper’s Paint­ings Expressed Amer­i­can Lone­li­ness and Alien­ation

What Makes Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks a Great Paint­ing?: A Video Essay

Edward Hopper’s Cre­ative Process: The Draw­ing & Care­ful Prepa­ra­tion Behind Nighthawks & Oth­er Icon­ic Paint­ings

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

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, 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, on Face­book, or on Insta­gram.

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