CARTERFOSTER: Hi. I’m Carter Foster, Steven and Anne Ames Curator of Drawings at the Whitney Museum of American Art. This is a painting called New York Interior by Edward Hopper. He painted this painting with a disembodied eye as if he’s just outside of someone’s window. Hopper spoke very specifically about being inspired by riding through the city on the city’s elevated trains. New York had elevated subway trains for much of its history which have now been dismantled. In riding those trains you could see into people’s windows, and lives, and offices and all kinds of other things. I think that’s what this painting is about. He paints the woman as unaware of the viewer, so you’re almost guilty. It’s not that you’re looking at something you shouldn’t be looking at but he freezes a moment in time that would have been a fleeting moment.
I think one of the most interesting things about it is the way the scene is framed. You see this woman from the back with her hair going down her front so that her shoulders are exposed, so there’s a strong erotic undercurrent to the work. But then if you look at the way it’s framed, you have a dark rectangle on the left, you have irregular shapes on the right that are also equally dark that are ambiguous. They could be inside the room, they could be part of the building’s architecture. That’s what really puts you on the threshold of being inside and outside which is one of the great themes of Hopper’s career, inside and outside at the same time.