Edward Hopper Cape Cod Morning 1950 Oil on canvas

Edward Hopper
Cape Cod Morning 1950
Oil on canvas
87 x 101.9 cm
Gift from the Sara Roby Foundation © National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC

‘Maybe I am not very human. What I wanted to do was paint sunlight on the side of a house,’ Hopper once said. Light does much more than illuminate a Hopper scene; it is a metaphor, an emotion. The abstract fall of light in these later paintings takes on geometric forms, rectangular shafts that penetrate dark interiors, bathing their subjects in a celestial glow. 

The woman sitting on her bed in Morning Sun appears to be fixed on something beyond the painting’s realm. Her form is sculpted by sunlight, and she seems to receive its warmth, as if in benediction. A preliminary sketch for the work reveals Hopper’s subtle analysis of the gradations of light and shade. It is peppered with annotations such as: ‘warm shadows in ear’, ‘cool blue-grey shadows’, ‘reflected light’, ‘dark against wall.’ The naked figure of A Woman in the Sun is also the recipient of light that comes not from the window we can see, but from another source, out of view. The unnaturally elongated shadows and sparsely furnished room emphasise a symbolic quality in the painting, rendering the inner realm of the mind as palpable as the outer world represented.