The theater lighting manufacturer Electronic Theatre Controls has a human sized scale model of the diner in the lobby of their headquarters in Middleton, Wisconsin. It is used as a reception area for the building. 
Starting shortly after their marriage in 1924, Edward Hopper and his wife Josephine (Jo) kept a journal in which he would, using a pencil, make a sketch-drawing of each of his paintings, along with a precise description of certain technical details. Jo Hopper would then add additional information about the theme of the painting.
Night + brilliant interior of cheap restaurant. Bright items: cherry wood counter + tops of surrounding stools; light on metal tanks at rear right; brilliant streak of jade green tiles 3/4 cross canvas at base of glass of window curving at corner. Light walls, dull yellow ocre [sic] door into kitchen right. Very good looking blond boy in white (coat, cap) inside counter. Girl in red blouse, brown hair eating sandwich. Man night hawk (beak) in dark suit, steel grey hat, black band, blue shirt (clean) holding cigarette. Other figure dark sinister back at left. Light side walk outside pale greenish. Darkish red brick houses opposite. Sign across top of restaurant, dark Phillies 5c cigar. Picture of cigar. Outside of shop dark, green. Note: bit of bright ceiling inside shop against dark of outside street at edge of stretch of top of window.
Nighthawks is a 1942 painting by Edward Hopper that portrays people sitting in a downtown diner late at night. It is Hopper’s most famous work and is one of the most recognizable paintings in American art. Within months of its completion, it was sold to the Art Institute of Chicago for $3,000, and has remained there ever since.
A Possible coincidence or perhaps an intentional move on Hopper’s behalf, choosing to depict a crossroads certainly reflects the void between physical proximity and the inability to emotionally connect in modern urban climates.
” data-medium-file=”https://blog.artsper.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/nighthawks-644×430.jpeg” data-large-file=”https://blog.artsper.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/nighthawks-644×430.jpeg” src=”https://blog.artsper.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/nighthawks-644×430.jpeg” alt=”Edward Hopper, Close-up of Nighthawks, 1942″ data-lazy-srcset=”https://blog.artsper.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/nighthawks.jpeg 644w, https://blog.artsper.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/nighthawks-150×100.jpeg 150w, https://blog.artsper.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/nighthawks-135×90.jpeg 135w” data-lazy-sizes=”(max-width: 644px) 100vw, 644px” data-lazy-src=”https://blog.artsper.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/nighthawks-644×430.jpeg?is-pending-load=1″ srcset=”data:image/gif;base64,R0lGODlhAQABAIAAAAAAAP///yH5BAEAAAAALAAAAAABAAEAAAIBRAA7″> Edward Hopper, Close-up of Nighthawks, 1942
In January 1942, Jo confirmed her preference for the name. In a letter to Edward’s sister Marion she wrote, “Ed has just finished a very fine picture–a lunch counter at night with 3 figures. Night Hawks would be a fine name for it. E. posed for the two men in a mirror and I for the girl. He was about a month and half working on it.”
Edward Hopper said that Nighthawks was inspired by “a restaurant on New York’s Greenwich Avenue where two streets meet,” but the image, with its carefully constructed composition and lack of narrative, has a timeless quality that transcends its particular locale. One of the best-known images of 20th-century art, the painting depicts an all-night diner in which three customers, all lost in their own thoughts, have congregated. Fluorescent lights had just come into use in the early 1940s, and the all-night diner emits an eerie glow, like a beacon on the dark street corner. Hopper eliminated any reference to an entrance, and the viewer, drawn to the light, is shut out from the scene by a seamless wedge of glass. The four anonymous and uncommunicative night owls seem as separate and remote from the viewer as they are from one another. Reworked and parodied countless times, Nighthawks has become an icon of American culture.
Nighthawks—night & brilliant interior of cheap restaurant. Cherry wood counters & tops of surrounding stools, lights on metal tanks at rear right; brilliant streak of jade green tiles 3/4 across canvas at base of glass. Very good looking blond boy in white (coat, cap) inside counter. Girl in red blous[e], brown hair eating sandwich. Man nighthawk (beak) in dark suit, steel grey hat, black band, blue shirt (clean) holding cigarette. Other figure dark sinister back—at left. Darkish old red brick houses opposite. Sign across top of restaurant shop dark—Phillies 5¢ cigar—picture of cigar.
When one looks closely at the heads of the man and woman facing the viewer, their faces are amazingly hawklike. The title Nighthawks can refer to people who are night owls, but it also refers to a particular kind of nocturnal bird (genus Chordeiles), which is related to goatsuckers and whippoorwills. The relationship of the nighthawk to the whippoorwills suggests that this painting may be the urban pendant to Cape Cod Evening in which the collie responds to the song of the whippoorwill. Whereas in the latter painting Hopper shows how nature is taking over, in the former, Nighthawks, he pictures a diner that represents a move toward a mechanized future and people who still exhibit an untamed restlessness. Both situations are regarded with a jaundiced eye: nature and technology attract and repel at the same time.