Contextual notes for part 4 (1): Looking Out

Before embarking on part 4 with the outdoor resp. ‘looking out’ elements I consider key aspects for me to keep in mind and to reflect on till next assignment. My tutor provided me some helpful suggestions to look out for. In the first part I am looking at the architectural elements in context with the relationship between the viewer, the artist, me and the outside.

For project 1 ‘From inside looking out‘:

The title of the projects looks for me like a metaphor considering my work on my self in part 3. From my inside view and self awareness into the world around me and how the surrounding space impacts me and the way I perceive it. The phrase ‘to look out‘ can have several meanings that I find quite fascinating in the context of visual art and the relationship between me as an artist and the world around me: ‘to mind, to care, to watch, to discern etc.’  (Merriam Webster – click here)

The architectural spaces of a building, house etc. can thus inform the relationship of self to outside. In this context to look at

Pierre Bonnard (1867 -1947) – all images [accessed 17 Oct 2016]
Bonnard often paints his outside views from inside framed by windows or doorways. As if  he wanted to place the nature under human control. Bonnard sought to instill each picture with, in the words of Nabis colleague Maurice Denis, “a beauty outside nature.” (


  • The Window‘, 1925 – click here
    => With an oblique view through the window Bonnard unties interior and exterior spaces. The outside – South of France – is glowing and the light comes inside. The outside is been framed by the window. The depicting of objects for writing a letter would remind one of vacation time and the fact that the apartment in South France was rented. The palette is light and muted with white. A sensation of easiness, perhaps also of melancholy is coming across.

  • Dining Room Overlooking the Garden (The Breakfast Room)’, 1930-31′ – click here
    => A more frontal view through the window. Through the bold contrast the focus is clearly on the table in the foreground extending the picture plane towards the viewer. The outside is nearly matching the wall paper to the left and right of the window as if both world are merging together while sitting at the breakfast table. The person to the left looks quite awkward to me considering proportions and the near integration with the wall paper as well. The palette is bold though muted with strong emphasise on atonal contrast.

  • The Open Window’, 1921 – click here
    => The radiating summer light shining inside and depicted with bold and saturated warm colours. The sharp and glooming outside is complemented with at times disguised and unsharp shapes of people and objects. Those seem to integrate with the surrounding space and into the picture plane. This achieved by use of similar colours and tones. Like in his painting ‘Dining room…’  the reclined figure is at the edge of the image and strongly cropped and nearly hidden. His strange use of flesh colour is adding to that camouflage effect. After all Bonnard’s painting do not look like fantasy but quite believable atmospheric representations.

Edward Hopper (1882 – 1967) an American modern artist
Hopper made several painting of interior with a ‘looking out’ viewpoint. Interestingly for me he also painted some works with a view ‘looking in’ like his famous work ‘Nighthawks’, 1942 or ‘Apartment Houses’, 1923 (available from: Most of his paintings have the human presence and the sensation of isolation as a major theme. Some paintings do show places vacant of human figure and activity, isolated buildings (e.g. ‘House by the Railroad’, 1925)or places e.g. gas stations. There is an intrinsic implication of the “transitory nature of contemporary life with loneliness and mystery”. (Murphy, 2007)

Works were figures are depicted they seem to be rather non-present (e.g. ‘Automat‘), figures do not communicate with each other (e.g. ‘Nighthawks‘). They seem like lonely figures in alienated places concerned more with the private matters and disconnected from others.  Hopper do not shown people’s homes or their familiar environment but rather temporary places of transit (e.g. hotel rooms, restaurants). There is a notion that Hopper’s paintings do express the anxiety of society in war time.

– ‘Automat‘, 1927 – in: Botton, 2004
– ‘Hotel by a Railroad‘, 1952 – in: Botton, 2004
– ‘Compartment C, Car 293‘, 1938
– ‘Room in Brooklyn‘, 1932 – click here

=> Hopper’s painting with looking out do show for me some common features: the women are looking down and often they do read a book. Might this be a metaphor for escaping the outer world and to avoid communicating with others e.g in ‘Hotel by a Railroad’?. People are not communicating, the people are isolated and looking rather sad, they seem to be in transition e.g. ‘Automat‘. Most of them do convey a sense of introspective reflection, reading books, being in train etc. could be seen as metaphors for that.  Alongside the depicted landscape or outside views are either in the back of the figure or passing by unconsciously as in ‘Compartment‘.

With the depicting of human presence and the sensation of alienation in outside places Hopper established a whole sensational theme called Hopperesque. This is mainly related to nighttime or isolating places like motels, service stations, roadside diners, airports, bus stations and all-night supermarkets. In those transit places humans can experience threshold sensations alongside alienated poetry and loneliness. (Botton, 2004)

About gender and E. Hooper:

I am wondering about the hidden gender topics though and dig a bit into the discussion related to this topic. What is the reason that Hopper painted quite often women alone in company? Hopper might have realised this himself as quite soon he depicted in his painting just one single woman, his wife Jo. In the context of gender and feminism Renner compared the works by Edward Hopper with the later artist Eric Fischl (b. 1948). The kind of male voyeurism on female figures and how the male eyes treats the female body as a screen to project his unconscious desires (Renner, 1999). On the other hand different analysis do perceive Hopper as a modernist contrasting “feminist theorists (who) often criticised Hopper for his voyeuristic depictions of women”. Ulamoleka further suggests “that Hopper actually elevates the status of a woman, by identifying her freedom and individuality alongside male figures. In contrast Hopper identified himself with the lone vulnerable isolated figures. This modern approach to gender further supports the claim that Edward Hopper is a Modernist. (Ulamoleka, 2014)

I keep it at this stage as this would moves away from my initial scope of research.





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