Edward Hopper – “Lighthouse at Two Lights”

Edward Hopper (July 22, 1882 – May 15, 1967) was a prominent American realist painter and printmaker.

 Edward Hopper - self-portrait

Edward Hopper – self-portrait

A number of his paintings are of lighthouses on the north-eastern coast of America. Lighthouse at Two Lights is one that is an interesting starting point for discussion of his work.

Edward Hopper - Lighthouse at Two Lights

Edward Hopper – Lighthouse at Two Lights

The formal structure at the centre of the painting has five elements. The first is the lighthouse itself, the second is the house behind the lighthouse and the third is the small turret. The fourth element is the neighbouring house which is in the near distance and separated from the main subject. The fifth element is the cloud formation in the sky.

The lighthouse and the house it is attached to are powerful symbols. The house, like so many houses that Hopper painted is bathed in white sunlight. It’s a solid symbol of the importance of home in the life of the American family. So important in fact that it is a beacon for the rest of the world. The small turret of the house is reminiscent of a sentry post on a castle and stands guard as it looks out from its position high on the hill.

There appears to be a wall running away to the right which separates the neighbour’s house from the lighthouse. there are echoes of the neighbour in Robert Frost’s poem Mending Wall where the neighbour says “Good fences make good neighbours.” The Lighthouse is strong but isolated and the structure of the painting moves the viewers focus out to the left, presumably out to sea.

The other fascinating element in this painting is the cloud formation in the sky. Clearly a large aeroplane or maybe an eagle (a potent American symbol), the shape patrols the stratosphere protecting the scene below.

The painting is fascinating because of that structural simplicity and powerful symbolism which is rooted deeply in the American psyche and this reflects the artistic concerns of Hopper who sought the place of the artefacts of everyday life, lighthouses, bridges, factories, petrol stations in both in urban and rural landscape. He often does this by the brilliant use of large geometrical chunks of white light and paring back of the detail in the paintings.

This scene clearly had some fascination for Hopper. He painted it again as Captain Upton’s house

Captain Upton's House

It’s an interesting contrast to the Lighthouse painting. There is more attention to the detail of the house. It’s a rather more mundane painting. The turret that stand sentry now looks like an outhouse and we can see the detail of the curtains in the windows. It’s a more homely, less symbolic painting and ultimately less satisfying.

He returned to this particular theme a number of times but never with the emotional power that he invested in Lighthouse at two lights

Edward Hopper -Lighthouse- Hill

Edward Hopper -Lighthouse- Hill

 Edward Hopper - Lighthouse and building

Edward Hopper – Lighthouse and building

Other Hopper blogs

Sunlight and structure: Hopper’s Sun Watchers

Hopper’s Sunlight Paintings: Ideal Forms and Shadows

Edward Hopper: the Sunlight pictures (i)

Edward Hopper: travellers going nowhere

Hopper’s travellers (ii)

Edward Hopper’s Travellers

Edward Hopper: Couples at Crossroads

7 thoughts on “Edward Hopper – “Lighthouse at Two Lights”

  1. Hi again. This is just to tell you that the penultimate painting you show here is not by Hopper, but some (bad!) copy of his “Lighthouse Hill” of 1927 :/
    (I don’t know if you will accept this comment, since I notice you have not yet accepted my previous one — also about Hopper’s lighthouse paintings — )

    • Hi – thanks. I have only read your previous blog once, and only quickly at that, but was very impressed at the thoroughness of and wanted to justice and make some commentary. I would like to talk to about Hopper’s work And of course more general issues given that you have written about Goya’s Dog We probably have a lot in common. It’s a time issue, I spend a lot of time with my grandson And also writing letters to him https://timothyrhaslett.wordpress.com/on-being-a-grandfather/ . Also, my brother who I don’t see very often, and his partner have been visiting from Canberra,

      Will be in touch Regards Tim

      • Thanks for the answer, Tim 🙂 I just misunderstood you when I noticed that my first comment had not been approved. Also, being sincere to you, it has happened to me several times that some persons who contact me, after liking some post, then keep away when they see I belong to the LGBTQ+ community (there is still much homophobia and transphobia around the world and I have become hypersensitive about this.)
        I will read these letters to your grandson 🙂
        Thanks again for your kindness! Best wishes. – Li

      • Hi
        You may be aware that in Australia we are currently having over on the issue of marriage equality. The political issue has been complicated by the opponents of same-sex marriage so I won’t go into the messy details unless you are interested. Before we shifted our current address we lived next door to a gay pub and good friends with the publican, both sets of neighbours were gay and we have remained friends with Anne and Allison since both of us have moved away.

        Regards

        Tim

      • I appeciate your information 🙂 I know Australia is a liberal country with respect to civil rights. My misunderstanding or, in fact, mistake was not related to your homeland, just with personal issues I have had lately on- & offline.
        Of course, I am glad you are LGBTQ-friendly, Tim. Best regards! – Li 🦄

  2. I grew up in Chicago and the Art Institute (home of “Nighthawks”) was my home museum. My now-ex and I traveled to Dallas (from San Antonio — a distance of 274 miles) to see Lighthouse Hill, specifically, once and the painting had been removed from display for repairs. It was very disappointing and I’ve always meant to return someday when the painting is actually on display.

    Anyway, I’m mostly commenting in part to say how much I enjoyed this post and to make one tiny editorial comment. You refer to those last two paintings as being of a similar theme, but leave it sort of up in the air regarding the identity of that final lighthouse. That’s clearly to my eyes (and further research indicates that my eyes are correct) Portland Head lighthouse, six miles farther up the coast from Two Lights.

    • Wow – Thank you very much for the comment. I am always extremely fascinated by the way that an artist particularly Hopper translates the landscape painting and a number of my blogs taken photographs of scenes and compared them with the paintings which I find quite fascinating. So, thank you very much for your comment. I live in Melbourne in Victoria, Australia and some years ago we had an exhibition of paintings by leading Australian artists done on the Mornington Peninsular were we used to live which was fabulous to see. I was in Boston some years ago when There was a major Hopper exhibition at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. I think now if I had the time and the money, I would do a tour and visit the scenes of many of those paintings. Alas, will now not be possible.

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