Hopper & Freud
16th July, 2013
One way of looking at the American artist Edward Hopper (1882-1967) is that he mirrored the psychological currents of the 20th century. Before Sigmund Freud wrote 'Mourning & Melancholia' (1917), Hopper's melancholic style was already established. His motifs were darkness and solitude in the city - and the black and white medium of etching, to which he turned his attention from 1915 onwards, lent itself particularly to such a mood. 'Night in the Park' (1921) is a lovely example.
Freud had visited America in 1912, and news and images of the Great War affected American thinking during that decade. Hopper himself, still single and unsuccessful, turned his attention from oil canvases to etching, which made more sense commercially.
In mid-life, like Freud, his creativity gained clearer expression, and in 1923 he sold his first canvas 'Mansard Roof', which features a house with blank windows, Hopper's expression of the discomfort of emptiness.
Later, 'Automat' (1928), a most beautifully evocative and timeless work, shows a young woman alone in a coffee-shop. It's typical of Hopper that the painting fits the mood of the times, the girl's studious interiority in contrast to 'outside' - the flourescent light and large window behind her.
Hopper's paintings lure the spectator in, and then ask endless, unanswerable questions. However, this task is softened by the melancholic beauty of the scene. Her timelessness is exquisite. Can't we imagine her sitting alone in a cafe in Hoxton, with exactly the same concerns three-quarters of a century later? Is she lonely, tired or lost? Is she waiting, and if so, for whom?
Hopper outlived Freud, Jung and Klein, but they all followed the same path of exploration of modern life, the paradox of a self in a society, and the focus on the individual.
Related articles from our experts
Nicola Griffiths BACP Dip in Counselling BA Hons in Social StudiesDecember 6th, 2016
Amanda Perl MSc Psychotherapist Counsellor MBPsS BACP (Accred) CBT PractitionerNovember 19th, 2016
Allswell Counselling - Joy Christopher Reg.MBACP. MIC. LLHAY.cert.December 6th, 2016
Andrea Harrn Psychotherapist and Author of The Mood CardsMay 13th, 2011
Imi Lo: Psychotherapist, Art Therapist, Supervisor (MMH,UKCP,HCPC,MBPsS)March 29th, 2015
Keeley Townsend BA (Hons), Ad.Dip.CP with Distinction, MNCS (Acc)December 14th, 2009
Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.