Etchings in the Night

I am an admirer of the paintings of Edward Hopper. Less well known are his etchings. At a glance, some people might think they are drawings or possibly that they are engravings. I had to double-check terminology. The big difference between an etching and an engraving is that making an engraving is a physical process. Etching is a chemical process. An engraver uses sharp tools to cut lines directly into a surface. Hopper and any etcher burn lines into a surface with acid.

I had never heard of the artist Martin Lewis until I read an article about his connection to Edward Hopper. He was a retired art teacher and had some success with his etchings until that form fell out of favor in the later 1930s.

For about 30 years until his death in 1962, he taught other people how to etch. One of those people was Edward Hopper.

by Martin Lewis
by Martin Lewis
by Martin Lewis
by Martin Lewis

You can see similarities in their etchings. Their style and the use of the cityscapes are obvious.

This technique allows for printmaking which can be very profitable.

It seems well established that Lewis was a mentor to Hopper in learning how to do etchings. Unfortunately, the two had a falling out and many years later Hopper disavowed Lewis’ influence on him as an artist or etcher.

Night Shadows - Edward Hopper - 1921 - Etching
Night Shadows by Hopper


Night on El Train - Edward Hopper - 1918 - Etching
Night on the El Train by Hopper


Late, but Lewis’ artwork sells now for significant amounts.

Hopper: The Solitude of Sunlight on the Side of a House



“I’ve been thinking a lot about Edward Hopper. So have other stay-at-homes, I notice online.” I often think about Hopper’s paintings, so that opening line from a article in The New Yorker did not surprise me. I don’t think Edward Hopper has been more on my since this pandemic began but I can see what might appeal to some people about his paintings right now.

The article’s author, Peter Schjeldahl, calls Hopper “the visual bard of American solitude—not loneliness.” The distinction is important in these days of isolation. Aloneness – not loneliness – is a Hopper theme.

His two most famous paintings are Nighthawks, which has been parodied many times with other people at that late-night diner, and his Early Sunday Morning cityscape empty of people street.

The article is illustrated with Hopper’s 1950 painting, Cape Cod Morning.”  I have looked at it many times. I still wonder about what that woman is looking at outside.  She’s intent. When I first saw the painting in person I thought it looked like she might be leaning on a walker. It’s probably a table, but a walker makes her longing to be outside more real to me.

People are often alone in his paintings. Their looks can be interpreted as lonely or as peaceful in their solitude.

Hopper is classified as a Realist but Schjeldahl says he is more properly a Symbolist. His work is part draftsman with lots of straight lines, but the most common comments on his paintings are about the light and shadows.  He said, “Maybe I am not very human – what I wanted to do was to paint sunlight on the side of a house.”

The New Yorker article has lots of references to influences that I don’t know – Courbet, Gericault, Burchfield – but I do get the connections to things like Hitchcock’s Bates’ home in Psycho which was influenced by Hopper’s House by the Railroad.

His landscapes don’t generally have people and, again, you might see that as solitude or loneliness, sadness or peacefulness.


Like Alfred Hitchcock’s working relationship with his wife Alma (screenwriter and film editor), Edwards’ wife, Josephine, a painter herself, also served as his model and cataloged his work.

At 83,  Hopper’s last painting was Two Comedians. It is a farewell picturing he and Jo as two pantomime comedians in the style of the commedia dell’arte taking a final bow to the public art life.  Edward died less than two years later and Jo the following year. In the end, we are all alone but hopefully not lonely.

Two Comedian, 1965


A Sunday September Equinox

A Woman in the Sun by Edward Hopper, 1961 via

Another equinox approaches. They are opposite on either side of the equator, so my autumnal (fall) equinox here in the northern hemisphere is someone’s spring (vernal) equinox in the southern hemisphere. In either location, this will be one of the two equinoxes every year when the sun shines directly on the equator and the length of day and night is pretty darn close to equal.

In Paradelle, this will occur Sunday, September 22, 2013 at 4:44 PM EDT (You can check your location here) That 4:44 time has a nice look. I’ll set my phone alarm to beep then and see if I feel anything stirring within or without.

For this post, I will avoid too much about the science of this event (You can read past posts for that, if you wish) and just focus on the idea of this seasonal dance that starts autumn for me.

The ancients paid more attention to this than we do. They knew this was one of two times each year when the Sun crosses the equator, and they figured out that day and night are of approximately equal length. That seemed very important to them. They may not have marked the four seasons in the same way that we do, but they noted the two equinoxes.

For their lives, the fact that the nights began to be longer than the days was more significant than the later electric age. They eventually calculated that the next turning point would be the Winter Solstice in December when days would start to get longer again.

Today, we don’t have much ceremony associated with the equinox. Summer ended for most Americans with Labor Day. School started again. Plants and gardens started to die back. Halloween and even Christmas items and advertisements started appearing already. We are terribly out of sync with the celestial clockwork.

I am an autumn baby, so this cooler weather, blazes of foliage, fireplaces and sweaters all feel very comfortable. Of course, I will miss summer when things turn cold in winter, but for now I am quite happy with the season.

Ever since I was 5, my year has started in September as either a student or as a teacher. That was true again this year. My years end in May or June (teaching college versus teaching high school). And then there is this limbo season in between of summer. It is one of the top benefits of teaching if you can take off for the summer. (Most teachers I know can’t do it and continue to teach or get some other job.)

The sun steadfastly avoids all our attempts to stamp holidays onto the year and moves southward so that it is cooler here in the north and warmer in the Southern Hemisphere.

When the Sun is at its farthest north or south and the length of time between Sunrise and Sunset is the shortest of the year, we have the solstices of summer and winter. These equinoxes mark the equal points in between.

Things being equal sounds pretty good to me. So, Sunday afternoon I am planning to go into New York City with my wife, have brunch with friends, and somewhere near 4:44 pm I will be looking at an exhibit of Edward Hopper artwork. That seems about right.

Early Sunday Morning by Edward Hopper, 1930 via