Urban Realism and the American Scene
Edward Hopper (1882–1967)
Dawn in Pennsylvania, 1942
Edward Hopper, one of the twentieth century’s most significant artists, produced seemingly mundane yet mysterious and disquieting images of American life. Throughout his career, his compositional style and emphasis on architectural structures over human figures distinguished him from his contemporaries. Dawn in Pennsylvania is a haunting vision of a deserted railroad station platform seen from across railroad tracks. In the background, a row of industrial buildings anchors the picture. The back end of the static train car underscores the stillness of the scene while conflicting light sources, suggestive of both dawn and sunset, reinforce its eeriness. With its broad horizontal format, dramatic contrasts of light and shadow, and illusionistic framing of a central depth bound by flat façades, the painting evokes a theatrical stage on which a narrative is about to begin. Even the vacant railroad platform hints at the rootlessness and anonymity of modern life.
Learn more about this painting on the Terra Foundation website.