Formal Analysis of "Early Sunday Morning"

Categories: Art

Edward Hopper’s piece titled Early Sunday Morning represents an early Sunday morning in New York City. The piece was made in the year 1930, it portrays the small businesses and shops of Seventh Avenue in New York City on an early Sunday morning. The current location of the piece is at the Whitney Museum of American Art in Manhattan. The piece is an Oil painting on Canvas.

The first thing about the piece that grabs your attention is the stillness of an Early Sunday morning.

It depicts a common occurrence in real life on a Sunday morning when every is sleeping, businesses and shops are closed, and there is no one roaming the streets. The second thing that grabs my attention is how the buildings have a unique glow to them as the rays of sunshine hit them and cast a realistic shadow. The buildings are painted in red and green, these colors complement each other, which create a natural contrast and an eye-catching effect.

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When I first saw this painting, my eyes first notice the barber’s pole, which is tilted and also a bit of centered. The reason the pole pops out is because the white paint against the dark colored window seems to be part of the piece with the most contrast and the white of the globe on top of the pole adds a highlight to the painting. The Fire hydrant and the barber's pole interrupt the horizontal patterns that are created by the windows and they both caught my eye and gave me unique places to focus on.

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After looking at the panting closely, the windows also have their own unique personalities, representing the individuals inside, and the storefronts represent each individual business. Notice how each window is different, various window coverings with shades at different levels. Who lives in these apartments? Are the unseen people still asleep or are they reading the newspaper and drinking their morning cup of coffee? Are these people older, younger, male, female, couples or families? Likewise each storefront is unique, with different business signage, different types of awnings, or no awning, one store is painted red and there are two hanging store signs balancing each side of the painting.

Through his genius, Hopper has painted the business names on the glass of each storefront window using his perfect scribble. From a distance, they look exactly like hand-lettered, gold leaf signs, but in reality there is no definition to his typography.

The words are actually one or two blurred strokes of yellow paint with an impressionistic wiggle of the brush on top. Up-close it looks wrong, as if the technique would not be effective, but it is. Hopper has made his signage anonymous, which adds to the timeless mystery of this work.

The store fronts also appear to be vacant, but at least one door is open. In some deserted, ghost towns a person may see a vacant building with the door open, but never in New York City. This store is most definitely occupied, with someone inside on this lazy Sunday morning. The top green pediment of the building is quickly rendered with a few messy brush strokes.

Interestingly, none of the brushwork is precise or mechanical, in fact the whole painting seems to have been very quickly painted. The oil paint on the canvas is mostly applied in a thin layer. In many places the canvas itself, or its weave texture, shows through the scumbled paint.

The long deep shadows of this painting add to the vertical and horizontal essential geometry of his composition. Its simplicity is its beauty: quiet; glowing; enigmatic. Edward Hopper's 'Early Sunday Morning' is full of mystery and a painting very difficult to explain. Why is it so attractive to the viewer? The eerie stillness of this painting is best described by American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson who called such experiences 'alienated majesty.'

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Formal Analysis of "Early Sunday Morning". (2021, Aug 03). Retrieved from

Formal Analysis of "Early Sunday Morning"
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