You don’t have to be working overtime to understand Office in a Small City. Realist painter Edward Hopper once again depicts a solitary figure gazing off-canvas to portray his signature theme of isolation, reminding us that life can be pretty darn lonely.
While we might expect to see a scene like this in a large urban area such as San Francisco or New York, as in the famous Nighthawks, the specific reference to a “small city” in the title ominously implies that this could occur, if it hasn’t already, in any American town. Painted less than a decade after the Second World War, this isolated office demonstrates the depersonalization American business forces on its participants. Hopper purposely elevated the office in the air to symbolize the rise of American business as well as its detachment from the world below.
Like many of Hopper’s paintings, Office in a Small City illustrates the tension...