Sunday, March 1, 2009

Gas (1940)

I was reading Alain de Botton's book, "The Art of Travel" as I prepare for a small trip to NOLA this weekend (yay!). It's a great book--rambling and all over the place, but in an endearing way. It's full of little tangential gems. For instance, I really liked de Botton's take on Edward Hopper's paintings (and his lonely travelers, train cars, rest stops and wating areas) because he sees them as more than meditations on human isolation. The paintings are stark and lonely, true, but I've always found them to also be alluring and weirdly comforting, as does he. Below is his take on the painting Gas (1940).

Like Automat, painted thirteen years before it, Gas is a picture of isolation: a petrol station stands on its own in the impending darkness. But in Hopper's hands, the isolation is once again made poignant and enticing. The darkness that spreads like a fog from the right of the canvas, a harbinger of fear, contrasts with the security of the station itself. Against the backdrop of night and wild woods, in this last outpost of humanity, a sense of kinship may be easier to develop than in daylight in the city....At this last stop before the road enters the endless forest, what we have in common with others can loom larger than what separates us.


Mat Darby said...

One of my favorite Hopper paintings. I have a print of it hanging on the wall in my "office" at home. (I wonder if de Botton mentions Hopper's "Rooms for Tourists," another fave.)

Olivia said...

I know. I love the light coming from the station store.