Picturing America: Edward Hopper's "House by the Railroad"
Though Edward Hopper lived in New York City for much of his life, he was critical of urban life and modern technology, a perspective visible in this melancholy painting of a seemingly-abandoned Victorian house by the side of a railroad. Film was one of the few technological innovations that Hopper valued, and, indeed, his painting has much in common with film, especially in its use of light and shadow. Learn more with Picturing America.
View the video (6 minutes) on Picturing America.
- What connections do you note between Hopper's work and cinema?
- What themes and emotions come through in Hopper's painting?
- How has Hopper's "House by the Railroad" influenced other artists and popular culture?
Explore the literary connections between Hopper's painting and the poem Edward Hirsch wrote about it in the lesson plan Edward Hopper's "House by the Railroad": From Painting to Poem (grades 6-8).
Develop an understanding of the historical context in which Hopper created this painting with the following lessons about 1920s America and the interwar years:
The "Secret Society" and Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby (grades 9-12): Tease out themes of industrialization, inequality and class difference, and urban-rural divide in Fitzgerald's novel to connect it with Hopper's painting.
The Industrial Age in America: Sweatshops, Steel Mills, and Factories (grades 6-8): The loss of pastoral, small-town American life is palpable in Hopper's painting. What did this mean for the workers in cities and factory towns?
Postwar Disillusionment and the Quest for Peace (grades 9-12): The Great War drove home the horrors that modern technology could inflict on humankind. Situate Hopper's painting as part of a more general skepticism of technology, urbanization, and internationalism.
The Impact of the Transcontinental Railroad (grades 6-8): Learn about the impacts of railroad construction on rural life, indigenous people, and the environment.