Edward Hopper, Sunlight in a Cafeteria, 1958. Oil on canvas, 102.1 x 152.7 cm. Yale University Art Gallery, Bequest of Stephen Carlton Clark, B.A. (1903), 1961.18.31

Hopper wrote to his patron, Stephen Clark, in September, 1958: “I’m very pleased that you have acquired my picture, Sunlight in a Cafeteria. I think it’s one of my very best pictures.” From his youth, Hopper had been intrigued by people in urban restaurants, sketching one such scene when he was only fourteen years old. There is little communication between the figures in these ordinary settings, suggesting the lack of emotional interaction in much of modern life. In Sunlight in a Cafeteria, he conveys an unsettling tension between the man and woman, who are clearly aware of, but do not acknowledge, each other’s presence. As in almost all his paintings, Hopper creates an edgy stillness that suggests multiple narrative possibilities. (Yale University Art Gallery)

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