Alone Together: The Quiet Couples of Edward Hopper Paintings

Edward Hopper's paintings are accused of being cold and devoid of romance between couples (See this video from Great Art Explained). Almost all his paintings at some level, are a glimpse into the private lives of people in their own space, the composition is acute perspectives, to say the least. But the more strikingly uncomfortable ones are the couples who share the same room but very different inner lives. That pair in Nighthawks, for example, sitting side by side, without touching each other or talking to each other, or looking at each other. Just two people, beside each other.  However, I always felt that these couples are intimate; intimate enough to be in their own worlds, which are so quiet that you can feel the silence through the frames. True that these paintings capture all moodiness and melancholy, but that's everyone's default introspective world. Don't all happy couples eventually find each other's comfort in the silences, without engagement or being weighed by the expectation to engage?  Fittingly, like that couple in Nighthawks, my favourite place to sit on a date is either the bar or next to window ledges, where we watch the world pass by, rather than facing one another. It somehow feels like a relief to not have every bit of you attentively observed, but have the sheer company, in an otherwise isolated world. Doesn't close proximity account for affection itself?? We must learn to appreciate the previews of the personal lives of these couples, and not assume it as all there is. For all we know, these are not prefaces of their stories or even the ending scenes, but the middle of the climax.


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