Landscape with Automobile

The Walker Art Center’s latest exhibit, Hopper Drawing: A Painter’s Process, is a refreshing way to explore some of the perennial questions in urban design philosophy. The exhibit includes many of Edward Hopper’s (1882-1967)  most famous paintings and drawings  (like preliminary sketches for Nighthawks, below). “The exhibition also features groundbreaking archival research into the buildings, spaces, and urban environments that inspired his work” (Walker Art Center).

Nighthawks, 1942


The urban environment, and transit in particular, was a frequent theme throughout Hopper’s career. Hopper, who lived in Manhattan, often like to paint the scenes he would see while riding an elevated train through the city at night, like the painting below:

Office at Night, 1940


Not infrequently, the subject of his paintings were the trains themselves:

Chair Car, 1965


Dawn in Pennsylvania, 1942


When Hopper was finally able to purchase a car, he painted the landscape as he saw it from the road.

Route 6, Eastham 1941


Gas, 1940


The conflicts Hopper explores though his paintings will resonate with urban thinkers: rural versus urban, private versus public spaces, tradition versus progress. And its refreshing to explore these conflicts through an abstract medium like painting.

There is a quiet in Hopper’s paintings that allows you to absorb the scene without judgment. And sometimes, its just nice to take a break from all that critical thinking and analysis!



If you do go, I recommend taking the time to read the material throughout the exhibit. There’s a lot of well researched history and thoughtful commentary. And while you’re there, take a look outside through one of the Walker’s fabulous windows, because there are great views of the Hennepin-Lyndale intersection (and feel free to go back to judging critcally at that point).

Hopper Drawing: A Painter’s Process
Walker Art Center
March 13, 2014 – June 20, 2014

Kasia McMahon

About Kasia McMahon

Kasia McMahon is an advocate of the natural recreation areas of Minneapolis and surrounding metro. You can read her blog at