Time of day is acutely observed in Hopper’s work, as the titles of a number of these paintings attest: Cape Cod Evening, Cape Cod Sunset, House at Dusk, Early Sunday Morning. But his approach has little to do with the veiled, atmospheric light of the Impressionists whose techniques so influenced him at the outset. Instead, light is dramatised, becoming almost other-worldly.
In Early Sunday Morning the painting’s unreal quality is emphasised by the long shadows cast onto the pavements. It may have been inspired by the set for a play Hopper had seen in New York, Elmer Rice’s Street Scene. The elongated horizontal format also alludes to cinema, as if a camera were panning along the storefronts, where a face might appear at a window, or an actor enter stage left. In fact, Hopper had originally included a figure in the upper storey, but later painted it out.
In House at Dusk, electric light creates small harbours of safety within, while outside the dark mass of trees looms threateningly. This contrast between the ‘civilised’ and the natural is also prominent in Cape Cod Evening. The home-spun ingredients of this image - a couple on the porch calling to their dog - belie the uncanny aura that steeps the scene. The house stops abruptly at the edge of the woods, which in turn dissolve into foreboding shadows. The awkwardly posed man and woman gaze in different directions, disconnected; even the dog looks away out of the picture.