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Even though she is in an all-hours Automat, which is a modern and "proper" place for women to eat because it serves drinks and snacks automatically, she is sitting alone and seems to be lost in thought.
Hopper's wife, Jo, was the model for this painting, but Hopper changed her appearance and made her look a little bit younger for this scene. She is wearing a green fur-trimmed coat with a cloche hat from the 1920s that doesn't quite match. This strongly suggests that it is cold outside. Only one glove is taken off. Hopper uses numerous different techniques to show how weak and lonely she is. The only thing the viewer can see through the dark window is a reflection of the Automat's lights.
The woman is the main focus of attention here. The back of the chair makes you want to get closer, but the fact that you can see the woman's legs, which Hopper seems to have done purposely, would have made you feel a little bit like a snoop in 1927. The woman's eyes are downcast as she stares into the cup, and the fact that the plate is empty shows that she has been there for a while. Overall, there is a dramatic tension, and even though the woman looks sad, the painting makes you think about her story and feel sorry for her. Hopper was excellent at capturing a scene and making the viewer think about what was going on.
Edward Hopper would often show people in bad moods. Automat has a sad atmosphere, which is different from other things he's done, where people might be alone or even not talk to each other. He could visually separate people, use negative body language, or even turn people away from each other to do this. This made his work more interesting and, in some cases, left messages about society as a whole. sometimes Hopper would talk about how people and nature have grown us apart over the past few generations. He would also talk about how friendship and happiness have been replaced by ambition and loneliness in modern life. Most people first see his paintings as charming pictures of American life from the past, but there is much more to see in the subtle ways each of these works is put together.
The artist would also make small changes from reality that people unfamiliar with his work might think were mistakes. For instance, in Automat, the woman's legs are especially bright, even though the angle of the table should have cast a shadow over them because of how the light was directed. Hopper would have known this, but he made her legs brighter to emphasize how sexual and attractive she was. He did the same thing in a number of other paintings, and he always avoided depicting reality directly so that he could leave subtle messages like this. That's probably why he gave her a body that wasn't exactly like his wife's, so he could send the exact message he wanted and also make her look a little bit younger. One hopes that these changes didn't upset Jo Hopper too much, and her husband may have explained why he did them at the time. One must also think about what was going on in society at the time; people were much more conservative, so showing legs like this would have been seen in a very different way than it is today.
Edward Hopper also darkens the glass window behind the model. Usually, we could see many people inside the building through that window. He tried not to draw attention away from the main character, as he usually did. So that a big block of black paint doesn't take up most of the canvas, he adds the bright lights above her head. This lets the viewer know how the room is set up and gives them a sense of perspective by the way they are lined up. We might even be able to make out a row of tables with excited customers, but the color is very close to the main black color, so it's more of an idea that fades as you look at the rest of the painting. In other places, the color scheme is mostly yellow-brown, with touches of blue, red, and green. The empty black chair in front of us might also give us a sense of being alone.
Many of the details in this painting would have made it easy for locals to tell that this type of venue was being shown. The artist probably chose these kinds of restaurants because they are very anonymous. Thousands of people eat at them all over the city, but very few people talk to people they don't already know. It fit with what the artist was saying about how people don't connect with each other in cities.
"...They were clean, well-lit, and quiet, with round tables made of Carrera marble and solid oak chairs like the ones shown here. By the time Hopper painted his picture, automats were being advertised as places where working women could eat alone in a safe and proper way."
Other of Hopper's paintings, like Nighthawks, Gas, Chop Suey, and House by the Railroad, for example, are all highly regarded pieces that show parts of American life, which maybe is a big part of why Edward Hopper was so successful.
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