Skip to main content

Edward Hopper

Early Sunday Morning
1930

On view
Floor 7

Date
1930

Classification
Paintings

Medium
Oil on canvas

Dimensions
Overall: 35 3/16 × 60 1/4in. (89.4 × 153 cm)

Accession number
31.426

Credit line
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney

Rights and reproductions
© Heirs of Josephine N. Hopper/Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Early Sunday Morning is one of Edward Hopper’s most iconic paintings. Although he described this work as "almost a literal translation of Seventh Avenue," Hopper reduced the New York City street to bare essentials. The lettering in the window signs is illegible, architectural ornament is loosely sketched, and human presence is merely suggested by the various curtains differentiating discrete apartments. The long, early morning shadows in the painting would never appear on a north-south street such as Seventh Avenue. Yet these very contrasts of light and shadow, and the succession of verticals and horizontals, create the charged, almost theatrical, atmosphere of empty buildings on an unpopulated street at the beginning of the day. Although Hopper is known as a quintessential twentieth-century American realist, and his paintings are fundamentally representational, this work demonstrates his emphasis on simplified forms, painterly surfaces, and studiously constructed compositions.

Visual Description

Early Sunday Morning is a horizontal oil painting on canvas. It is 3 feet tall and 6 feet wide, so it is twice as wide as it is tall. It shows a block of three attached buildings, all two stories tall, with shops on the street level and apartments above them. The buildings extend horizontally across the painting from the left edge to the right edge. You see them as if you're standing across the street from them.

Above all the buildings is a strip of blue sky, darker blue on the left, becoming lighter and tinged with yellow toward the right side of the painting. Below the buildings is a sidewalk, a curb, and a thin slice of the street. The sidewalk, curb, and street also run from one edge of the painting to the other.

The buildings are in New York City, but Hopper leaves out details like street signs. So it could be any Main Street, in any small town in the United States, during the middle decades of the twentieth century. There’s nothing living or natural in this painting. No people, pets, birds, flowers or trees, though there are hints of human activity in the apartment windows above the stores. And the sunlight is strong.

About a third of the way in from the left there is a fire hydrant on the sidewalk. And slightly right of center on the sidewalk there is a barber’s pole with red, white, and blue diagonal stripes. Except for the barber’s pole, there is no way to know the business of the stores. The storefront windows have lettering on them, but you can’t make out the words. The storefronts on the left and in the center are painted green and have rolled up awnings above their windows. The store on the right is painted red.

The second floor above all the stores is painted deep brick red. There are ten apartment windows, all the same size, stretching across the stores below. Some windows are open, some have yellow shades pulled down to differing lengths. Some windows have dark window coverings. A few have white curtains. In this small detail, Hopper makes us acutely aware that people are missing from the picture.

The sunlight on the buildings is very bright, and it is shining into the painting from the right. You can tell by the shadows. Both the barber’s pole and the fire hydrant cast long, dark shadows to the left, as they block the sunlight coming from the right. The length of these shadows shows that the sun is still rising and low on the horizon. It’s the sunlight and the absence of people that suggest the time is early morning and that the day of the week is Sunday, when few people are outside working or shopping.






Sunrise

Sunset

A 30-second online art project:
Ryan Kuo, Hateful Little Thing

Learn more

Vaccination required. All visitors aged 5+ must show proof of COVID-19 vaccination, in accordance with NYC requirements. Visitors aged 18+ must also show photo ID. Face coverings are required. Review the Whitney’s safety guidelines.