Are You Using That Chair?, 2005
Oil on canvas
Crude Oils, London, 2005
A humorous reference to Edward Hopper’s famous painting The Nighthawks, this oil on canvas by Banksy is indeed set in the deserted urban bar or cafeteria known from Hopper’s image in the artist’s social realist style.
Crude Oils, London, October 2005
Much like Hopper, Banksy is also recognized as an artist who does not shy from depicting the reality of our modern societies. In his version of Nighthawks, the artist depicts a threatening chubby man only wearing Union Jack underwear, pointing angrily at the cracked window of Hopper’s dinner. Two plastic chairs are scattered on the sidewalk around him, and it appears that he likely threw them in an attempt to break the window. This figure potentially represents the angry British working class demanding a seat at the elite’s table.
Edward Hopper (1882-1967) was an American Realist painter and printmaker. While he is widely known for his oil paintings, he was equally proficient as a watercolorist and printmaker in etching. His career benefited immensely from his marriage to fellow-artist Josephine Nivison, who contributed much to his work, both as a live-model, and as a creative partner. Hopper was a minor-key artist, creating subdued drama out of commonplace subjects layered with a poetic meaning, inviting narrative interpretations, often unintended. He was praised for complete verity in the America he portrayed. He is now widely considered to have been one of the top painters of the 20th Century.
Edward Hopper, Nighthawks, 1942
Oil on canvas, 84.1×152.4 cm (33×60 inches)
Art Institute of Chicago
Nighthawks portrays people in a downtown diner, late at night as viewed through the diner’s large glass window. The light coming from the diner illuminates a darkened and deserted urban streetscape.
It is considered to be Hopper’s best-known 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 on 13 May 1942, for $3,000.
Hopper’s stunningly cinematic picture Nighthawks is one of the most reproduced paintings in art history. Indeed, this picture addresses the loneliness created by the alienating presence of the modern city. The judicious composition of this painting, together with the remarkable color treatment, provokes a strange feeling within the viewer. Psychologically speaking, these people are isolated, thrown together as a group, but also locked within themselves, left alone to dwell on their own fears and concerns. It is a picture of city life in the small hours when an unnatural silence and an uncanny stillness take hold, tugging suggestively at the senses of hearing and vision.