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.
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.