Nighthawks is a painting completed in 1942, oil on canvas, by Edward Hopper that presents people in a downtown diner late at night. The Huffington Post said on May 5, 2013 that this painting is one of the most recognizable paintings in American Art.
The painting was inspired by a diner in Greenwich Village in Manhattan. Hoper said, “I simplified the scene a great deal and made the restaurant bigger.” Standing alone between tall building at night we are drawn inside. The widows curve at their corners. The dull yellow walls hold the light within. At the base of the window is a jade green stripe of tile that curves in the corner with window. The cherry wood counter and surrounding stools stand out. No door to the outside can be seen.
The people are not looking at each other. The blond, younger counter boy is dressed in a white coat and seems to be where he should be, but the patrons raise questions as to why they are there. The lady in the red blouse eating a sandwich may have the counter boys attention as she sits by the man in the dark suit and hat. Hopper said he painted this man’s nose longer suggesting a beak and hawk look. The other man seems to be a potential concern with his back turned to us. Both seem overdressed for that time of night and a dark area of the city.
Why these customers would be in this diner is a question presented to us by the patrons dress, the time of day, focus of lighting and the empty streets.
Outside the sidewalk is a pale green and the surrounding buildings are a dark red brick. The diner has a sign across the top with a cigar picture and the words “Phillies 5 cents Cigars”, also dating the time and place.