Hopper’s Sunlight Paintings: Ideal Forms and Shadows

Hopper’s Excursion into Philosophy is an interesting counterpoint to Morning Sun and Woman in the Sun. In  Morning Sun and Woman in the Sun, the subject is bathed in the light from the window engaged through a sense of anticipation in contemplation of the source of light from beyond the window.


In Excursion into Philosophy,  a man sits contemplating a patch of light on the carpet. His only connection to the patch of light is his shoe. Is he testing the water?


Jo [Hopper’s wife] recorded cryptically, “The open book is Plato, re-read too late.” Re-read by whom we wonder? By the artist? By the man in the painting? We can only speculate. But the reference to Plato is informative. In Plato’s Dialogues, Socrates argues that physical objects are shadows of their ideal form, an image of the real world. The shadows of the world that we see in it is worth noting that Hopper’s paintings are full of shadows.

Does the rectangle of light in Excursion into Philosophy represent the ideal world?  And has the man in the painting turned his back on the shadow world to contemplate the ideal which is manifest only in the form of light? It’s an intriguing thought.

There’s an interesting visual connection between the ideal world of the light, the book on Plato and the woman on the bed. The folds of a woman’s bottom are echoed in the folds in the book.

Arse and philosophy

Both are half bathed in light. Two ends of the spectrum: the sensual and the philosophical, both with their ideal and shadow form. The man has turned his back on both and is dipping his tone in the ideal world.

Hopper’s treatment of sunlight on the floor is similar in Summer in the City although the emotional content of the painting is quite different.


Here a woman, who is also completely illuminated by the light from the window, sits on a bed with her feet resting on the edge of a sunlit rectangle of carpet in an echo of Excursion into Philosophy and, in terms of composition, the two paintings are almost mirror images of each other.


Sunlight also falls on the lower legs of both of the figure on the bed linking the two figures in terms of composition and lighting. The relationship between each of the two figures in the paintings is, as it is in so many of Hopper’s paintings, difficult to interpret. Clearly, the two figures have turned their backs on each other but for reasons that we can only guess. Both the main figures appear lost in thought but there is a sense of despondency and forbearance in Summer in the City that is not quite so dominant in Excursion into Philosophy.

Other Hopper Blogs

Sunlight and structure: Hopper’s Sun Watchers

Edward Hopper: the Sunlight pictures (i)

Edward Hopper: travellers going nowhere

Hopper’s travellers (ii)

Edward Hopper’s Travellers

Edward Hopper – “Lighthouse at Two Lights”

Edward Hopper: Couples at Crossroads