CARTERFOSTER: So Soir Bleu is what I call Hopper’s French picture. It’s an homage, in a way, to many cross-currents in French artistic life at the end of the nineteenth century.
NARRATOR: The painting takes great interest in different social types, depicting a working-class man at left, a prostitute and a clown in the center, and a bourgeois couple at right. The individuals and figure groups don’t interact with each other. The painting is a synthesis of many trends in French art at the end of the nineteenth century, especially in its focus on café and street culture popularized by Edgar Degas and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, both artists Hopper cared about deeply.
Hopper painted Soir Bleu when he got back to New York: it was a summation of his experience in Paris. Not long after its completion he showed it along with a painting of a New York street. Critics were generally positive about the New York painting, but they were less enthusiastic about Soir Bleu. Hopper loved French culture, and he must have disagreed with his critics. But he rolled the painting up and put it in storage. It wasn’t seen again until long after Hopper’s death. After Soir Bleu, Hopper focused almost exclusively on American subjects.