Gas, 1940 by Edward Hopper
Hopper's painting represents a borderline situation. It is set at the frontier between day and night, between civilization and nature. The gas station has the appearance of a last outpost, where the human realm gives way, across the road, to the anonymous realm of nature. the edge of the woods rises like a dark wall in which no individual tree can be discerned. But our eye returns again and again to its warm hue. The bright, almost pure white fluorescent light in the gas station, in contrast, is almost painful to look at, and the eye shifts to the ribbon of road leading out of the picture to the right.
Yet the interest of this lonely outpost proves too great. The exaggerated perspective of the lane between grass-grown margin and mast draws us irresistibly into the narrow aperture, into a gloom from which there would seem to be no escape.
Hopper's aim was "the most exact transcription possible of my most intimate impressions of nature" — in this case, the loneliness of an American country road. Fellow artist Charles Burchfield believed these paintings would remain memorable beyond their time, because in his "honest presentation of the American scene . . . Hopper does not insist upon what the beholder shall feel."
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