House by the Railroad

Oil on canvas
24 x 29 in. (60.9 x 73.6 cm.)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York

From "Techniques of the Great Masters of Art"

"House by the Railroad is Hopper's first painting to represent successfully forms defined and modeled in light. In this painting, a solitary Victorian house and railroad track are represented in a way more expressive of Hopper's imagination than of the real world - most of Hopper's paintings are composites with the subject matter derived from several sources. The observer's viewpoint is not indicated and the track which sweeps across and beyond the edges of the canvas serve to disconnect the house from the ground and the observer's side of the railroad. It is also Hopper's method, which drew from, but did not specifically represent, the American scene which contributes to the strange and slightly disturbing effect of the painting.

"House by the Railroad has been interpreted as being satirical in intention and it was generally felt that the Victorian houses which Hopper often painted did not provide a serious subject. To this, however, Hopper commented that 'the great realists of European painting have never been too fastidious to depict the architecture of their native lands.' It is clear that Hopper regarded the often grotesque forms of late nineteenth-century American architecture as particularly suited to a serious transcription of his vision."