Edward Hopper’s Room in Brooklyn Art Posters & Prints: Isolated, Austere, Yet Illuminated

Edward Hopper’s Room in Brooklyn Art Posters & Prints: Isolated, Austere, Yet Illuminated

Nov 3rd 2022

“The Painter of Light and Shadow,” Edward Hopper was one of the early twentieth century’s most influential realist artists, best known for his oil paintings that, while they appear only to capture mundane, uncomplex settings, are layered with poetic significance and beg the favor of narrative interpretation.

Hopper’s skill in capturing light and shadow has scarcely been rivaled. He excelled in portraying the paucity, yet brilliance, of scenes both brilliantly and dimly lit with great facility. Many of his paintings showcase abandoned settings in the dead of night or awash in bright early morning sun. The solitude of much of his subject matter is all but palpable.

Few paintings of his are more widely recognized than his “Nighthawks,” “Rooms by the Sea,” or “House by the Railroad.” But this post will focus on another of his beloved works: “Room in Brooklyn,” of which our art posters and prints are some of our best-selling.

What is it about this emblem of Hopper’s artistic insight that has captivated viewers in such timeless fashion?

“Room in Brooklyn”: Ironic Isolation

Outwardly, “Room in Brooklyn” depicts a woman seated in a wooden chair, facing a window. The room is relatively sparse, with unadorned walls and an empty table in the foreground. The windows show the expanse of the city in the distance. The only break from monotony in the scene is a small table to the right of the sole occupant of the room, on which is arranged a vase containing some flowers.

One cannot help but feel the inherent loneliness of the scene. It is immediately impressive and makes it almost impossible to view the piece without feeling an emotional recession of isolation.

But there is great irony in this. The painting was completed in 1932, at a time when Brooklyn had a population estimated at 2.56 million inhabitants. The Brooklyn of today is estimated at 2.6 million.

By all accounts, the scene is a slice of life from one of the most vibrant boroughs nestled in the most vibrant city in what, from the view of an American painter, might be the most vibrant country in the world. New York is the emblem, the heart of American society, politics, culture, wealth, and spirit. New York is, metonymically, America.

Yet here we have a scene of silence, solitude, and isolation. It is jarring, even unsettling. The more one reflects on the significance of the location and the depiction of the scene, the more moving it becomes.

What Hopper has done must have been intentional, and perhaps the reason for it is this: the year, 1932, was what some would consider the very nadir of the great depression. Even here, at the beating center of New York City, could one feel so alone and despondent.

The Juxtaposition of Austerity and Plenitude

Another of the most striking aspects of “Room in Brooklyn” is the interplay between the elements of scarcity and abundance.

The room itself is starkly empty. It contains only one occupant, whose visage, being turned away from us, gives us the impression of cold clay or stone. She is there - but only hardly. 

Similarly, the furnishings of the room vibrate with a similar harmony. It is almost uncomfortably empty, with featureless floors and walls and an uncanny dearth of decorations and finishings.

And yet, as one absorbs the painting, it becomes apparent that this evident lack may be one of perception, and not of reality.

Of course, there is the inspiration associated with the arrangement (however meager) of flowers on the table at the right of the painting. But that is only the insinuation. The impression of wealth, even plenitude, is suffused across the entire painting.

Consider the depth of the painting. While most of the attention is doubtless commanded by the room, there is a scope of infinity just beyond the window. The Brownstones across the way, and the skyline beyond, are both clearly visible, though in the background. Little could be more indicative of plenty than the apparent presence of New York City, regardless of how cold and impersonal it appears.

And, moreover, to Hopper’s credit, he has played liberally with the greatest and freest of all resources, from which all wealth ultimately originates: the sunlight.

The room's greatest intrigue is a product of the stark contrast between dark and light areas, and indeed, elements of both scarcity and wealth are freely bathed in both shade and sunlight in a gleefully egalitarian manner. The sunlight does not discriminate between the fine china vase, or the naked floor or windowsill. Both receive equal measures of its grace.

In many ways, Hopper has deftly composed a vision that captures the presence of both bald despair and vital hope, the spirits of which vibrate resonantly, tangibly through “Room in Brooklyn.”

Perhaps that is why these are some of our best-selling art posters and prints.

Looking to Add “Room in Brooklyn” Art Posters or Prints to Your Home?

We carry a wide range of other art posters and prints in addition to “Room in Brooklyn.” Explore our previous link to discover gems from Vincent van Gogh, Maxfield Parrish, Claude Monet, John Singer Sargent, and countless other influential artists.