I have long admired the work of acclaimed American artist Edward Hopper, probably most famous for his work Nighthawks. His life and work has been written about particularly evocatively by Olivia Laing in her book The Lonely City.

That book talked about the effects of loneliness on creativity, and on the particular isolation of experiencing a feeling of loneliness in a city, where it is possible to be surrounded by others and yet remain disconnected.

Room in New York, 1932. Oil on canvas.

Living in a small house with three children and a husband, loneliness has often felt more like an unachievable goal rather than a problem.

However, the state of effective global lockdown imposed by the coronavirus pandemic has made all of us more cut off from others in our life, and some feeling of loneliness and isolation is inevitable.

Cape Cod Morning, 1950. Oil on canvas.

I can’t get out to art exhibitions in a pandemic, despite living in what is, in normal times, a cultural hub. So I found myself reaching for my shelf of art books (often hardly opened), and looking for my book on Hopper.

I’ve not been the only person recently to pick up on parallels with his work and the times in which we’re living. But, like the melancholic women in his painting, I have found myself with my face pressed against the glass, voyeuristically wondering what the people opposite might be doing in their own sealed-off rooms.

Hopper is a master of depicting people sitting alone, and creating scenes featuring deserted rooms or empty streets, which convey a sense of absolute aloneness. Paradoxically, then, his paintings ultimately capture views without viewers, even while we are gazing upon them.

Morning Sun, 1952, Oil on canvas and Room in Brooklyn, 1932. Oil on canvas.

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