LETTER:Sharing a view of loneliness

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The Independent Online
From Ms Margaret Miller

Sir: Richard Giordano (Letters, 26 August), commenting on Sheila Johnston's review ("Does Edward Hopper really epitomise American culture?", 22 August) of the Edward Hopper exhibition in New York, draws an interesting distinction between loneliness and isolation.

He defines isolation as "the vast distance between individuals who are physically close", and claims that anxiety about people's failure to bridge this gap is an American characteristic. As he points out, many of Hopper's paintings seem to portray this type of isolation. A particularly striking one, Room in New York, was on view in London at the Royal Academy two years ago. Walter Sickert painted a very similar scene about 18 years before Hopper did in Ennui, owned by the Tate Gallery. It is possible that Hopper was influenced by the Sickert painting, but in any case, the feeling in the two paintings is slightly different. Ennui depicts a boredom which feels true partly because the couples lack tension and the feeling is shared, whereas Room in New York seems to contain a tangible anxiety or tension - approaching a feeling of tragedy - behind the couple's individual isolation.

Another painting by Sickert, The Camden Town Murder or What Shall we do for the Rent? may well be echoed in two of Hopper's works - Summer in the City and Excursion into Philosophy. Each of these three paintings shows a couple on a bed, one person clothed and sitting on the edge, thinking, and the other, naked, lying down, face hidden. There is tension or anguish in all of them, but the sense of isolation seems stronger in the two by Hopper; there is even a kind of terrified despair in the eyes of the man who has just been reading philosophy.

These subjective and limited examples do not of course prove Mr Giordano's point, but the differences seen alongside the similarities between Hopper and Sickert tempt one in that direction - although such feelings are probably nearly universal.

Yours faithfully,

Margaret Miller


27 August