how is this painting existentialist?

Reply Fri 22 May, 2009 09:44 am
I was asked to write a page or so of personal reflection, using no internet sources etc, on my of how I would argue that this painting is existentialist.

here's the painting: http://www.geocities.com/art4today/usa/hopper/nithawxb.jpg

I've thought of few things, like how despite the fact that those people are in each others company, the painting still portrays the sense of isolation that Kierkeggard spoke of. the idea that you are who you are all by yourself, and what other people think of you has no real influence on who you really are.

what do you think?
  • Topic Stats
  • Top Replies
  • Link to this Topic
Type: Discussion • Score: 6 • Views: 10,903 • Replies: 11
No top replies

Reply Fri 22 May, 2009 11:41 am
@existential potential,
I don't think that's right.
What other people think of you can have a profound effect on who you are and what you turn out to be.
Privately, parents and grandparents and siblings can build and support a child's self esteem and confidence or conversely break her spirit.
Publicly, all great leaders rise to their followers' expectations.
existential potential
Reply Fri 22 May, 2009 12:02 pm
OK, but kierkegaards point was that it does not matter what others think about you, and if that does matter to you then you are not an individual, but are hopelesly depedent on and concerned about what others think about you. this is what being part of ther crowd was for Kierkegaard.

but thats besides the point, what about you thoughts about the picture?
0 Replies
Reply Fri 22 May, 2009 12:13 pm
I've seen this painting over the years, and personally don't think it feels isolating at all.

The first time I saw it, it made me want to be there in the diner, late at night. I was shocked when I learned it was supposed to be depressing.

0 Replies
Reply Fri 22 May, 2009 12:17 pm
I reserve judgment until I see the menu.
0 Replies
Reply Fri 22 May, 2009 12:17 pm
Here, this versions more cheery....

Merry Andrew
Reply Fri 22 May, 2009 02:21 pm
Ahem. Let's show a little respect for Mr. Hopper, chai. Tsk tsk and all that.

I think we need a working definition of 'existentalist' and 'existentialism' here before we can proceed. Kierkegaard? What would Sartre say? La Nausee has some scenes reminiscent of Hopper's Weltanschauung.

0 Replies
Reply Fri 22 May, 2009 05:11 pm
That's one of my favourite Hopper paintings but I don't see how existentialism comes into it. Is it a bit isolationist? Maybe. If you look at his other works, and I think you should - just to put this one in perspective - and maybe read about him - it's less isolationist than others. But how does existentialism enter this? I don't get that at all.

Here's a definition or several:

ex·is·ten·tial·ism (ěg'zĭ-stěn'shə-lĭz'əm, ěk'sĭ-)
n. A philosophy that emphasizes the uniqueness and isolation of the individual experience in a hostile or indifferent universe, regards human existence as unexplainable, and stresses freedom of choice and responsibility for the consequences of one's acts.

ex'is·ten'tial·ist adj. & n.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
Copyright © 2009 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
Cite This Source


A movement in twentieth-century literature and philosophy, with some forerunners in earlier centuries. Existentialism stresses that people are entirely free and therefore responsible for what they make of themselves. With this responsibility comes a profound anguish or dread. Søren Kierkegaard and Feodor Dostoevsky in the nineteenth century, and Jean-Paul Sartre, Martin Heidegger, and Albert Camus in the twentieth century, were existentialist writers.


See? I don't get where it enters into this at all.
Reply Sat 23 May, 2009 05:27 am
The tension that Hopper achieves by having three separate groupings of people , each involved in their own worlds and "isolated"from each other works for me.
Hopper was always sensitive to his subjects and their uniqueness and separation from each other.This is conveyed because the scene is like a"stake out" by yet another observer.

He did a coupl,e of these "stake out " scenes in the early 1940's. (Nighthawks, Drug STore, Night Windows,).
To me they state that "were all in this separately" . That sorta embodies an existentialist worldview
existential potential
Reply Sat 23 May, 2009 05:29 am
that is along the lines of my point,that despite that these people are in each others company, there is still that sense of isolation between them.
Reply Sat 23 May, 2009 09:34 pm
@existential potential,
The Lloyd Goodrich work on ewdward Hopper goes into the isolated togetherness that Hopper was interested in conveying. Goodrich states that this was part of Hoppers work since his early painting and self study in France. Hopper didnt get a real voice in his work until he explored watercolor and printing in the early part of the 19 teens and 1920's
0 Replies
Reply Thu 13 Aug, 2009 11:24 am
I would agree it doesn't seem necessarily that "existentialist" or "depressing." That being said, it reminded me (along with the thread title) of Hemingway's short story "A Clean Well-lighted Place," which is one of his best stories and only 2 pages long, and is quite existentialist.

0 Replies

Related Topics

How can we be sure? - Discussion by Raishu-tensho
Proof of nonexistence of free will - Discussion by litewave
morals and ethics, how are they different? - Question by existential potential
Destroy My Belief System, Please! - Discussion by Thomas
Star Wars in Philosophy. - Discussion by Logicus
Existence of Everything. - Discussion by Logicus
Is it better to be feared or loved? - Discussion by Black King
  1. Forums
  2. » how is this painting existentialist?
Copyright © 2022 MadLab, LLC :: Terms of Service :: Privacy Policy :: Page generated in 0.03 seconds on 05/18/2022 at 06:46:37