Edward Hopper stated that Nighthawks was inspired by "a restaurant on New York's Greenwich Avenue where two streets meet," but the image, with its carefully constructed composition and lack of narrative, has a timeless quality that transcends its particular locale. The painting depicts a brightly lit, sparsely adorned diner peopled by four figures whose relationships to one another remain frustratingly ambiguous. It is unclear whether they bear some tense, potentionally explosive relationship or whether they have been drawn into the diner from the forbidding darkness to take refuge in the silent company of strangers. Nighthawks is Hopper's most famous painting; reworked and parodied countless times, it has become an icon of American culture.
Exhibition History: Art Institute of Chicago, The Fifty-third Annual Exhibition of American Paintings and Sculpture, Oct. 29-Dec. 10, 1942, cat. 132.
Art Institute of Chicago, The Fifty-fourth Annual Exhibition of American Paintings and Sculpture, Oct. 28-Dec. 12, 1943, no. 15.
New York City, Whitney Museum of American Art, Edward Hopper: Retrospective Exhibition, Feb. 11-Mar. 26, 1950, cat. 61, plate 28; traveled to Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Apr. 13-May 14, 1950, Detroit Institute of Arts, June 4-July 2, 1950.
New York City, Wildenstein, Loan Exhibition of Seventy Twentieth Century American Paintings, Feb. 21-Mar. 22, 1952, cat. 54.
Venice, Esposiazione Biennale Internazionale d'Arte, June 14-Oct. 19, 1952, cat. 26.
Lake Forest College, Ill.
New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Edward Hopper, Sept. 29-Nov. 29, 1964, cat. 43; traveled to Art Institute of Chicago, Dec. 18-Jan. 31, 1965.
Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio, Fifty Years of Modern Art, June 14-July 31, 1966, cat. 81.
New York City, Whitney Museum of American Art, Edward Hopper: The Art and the Artist, Sept. 23, 1980-Jan. 18, 1981, cat. 386; traveled to London, Hayward Gallery, Feb. 11-Mar. 29, 1981 (separate Catalogue, no 96, p. 47), Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, Apr. 22-June 17, 1981, Düsseldorf, Städtische Kunsthalle, July 10-Sept. 6, 1981, Art Institute of Chicago, Oct. 3-Nov. 29, 1981, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Dec.16, 1981-Feb. 14, 1982.
Essen, Germany, Museum Folkwang, Edward Hopper und die Fotografie: die Warheit des Sichtbaren (Edward Hopper and Photography: The Truth of the Real), June 28-Sept. 27, 1992, p. 63, ill.
London, Tate Modern, Edward Hopper, May 27-Sept. 5, 2004; traveled to Cologne, Museum Ludwig, Oct. 9, 2004-Jan. 9, 2005.
Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, Edward Hopper, May 6-August 19, 2007; traveled to Washington DC, National Gallery of Art, September 16, 2007-January 21, 2008; Art Institute of Chicago, February 16-May 11, 2008.
Publication History: Gail Levin, "Edward Hopper's Nighthawks, Surrealism, and the War," Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies 22, 2 (1996), pp. 180-95, fig. 1.
The Art Institute of Chicago: Twentieth-Century Painting and Sculpture, selected by James N. Wood and Teri J. Edelstein (Art Institute of Chicago, 1996), p. 85, ill.
Judith A. Barter et al., American Modernism at the Art Institute of Chicago, From World War I to 1955 (Art Institute of Chicago/Yale University Press, 2009), cat. 133.