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Image Rights
Courtesy Walker Art Center


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Office at Night
Edward Hopper
unframed 22-3/16 × 25-1/8 inches
oil on canvas
Not on view

Object Details

Paintings (Paintings)
Accession Number
Front LR, “Edward Hopper”
Physical Description
Interior of an office. Man sitting behind a desk reading some papers which he holds with both hands. To the left of the man stands a woman at an open file cabinet. She looks down at a paper on the floor near the desk.
Credit Line
Gift of the T. B. Walker Foundation, Gilbert M. Walker Fund, 1948

object label Edward Hopper, Office at Night (1940) Walker Art Center, 1998

“So much of every art is an expression of the subconscious, that it seems to me most of all the important qualities are put there unconsciously, and little of importance by the conscious intellect. But these are things for the psychologist to untangle.”–Edward Hopper

Edward Hopper painted powerful portraits of American life–desolate cityscapes, sparsely populated with solitary figures. Born and raised in upstate New York, Hopper lived most of his adult life in New York City. Described by many as a withdrawn man who spent his time wandering the streets and going to movie theaters, Hopper’s personality and autobiography are reflected in the lonely subjects he chose to paint.

Hopper’s highly stylized images are raked with light and teem with psychological tension. Evoking the opening scene of a detective novel or a theatrical stage before the curtain rises, Hopper’s paintings are filled with drama waiting to unfold. The artist, however, discussed his work in less narrative terms. In the making of Office at Night, he was concerned primarily with depicting the various sources of light in the painting. “Anything more than this,” he wrote, “the picture will have to tell, but I hope it will not tell any obvious anecdote, for none is intended.”

Hopper and his wife, Josephine, who also served as his model, went through a series of possible titles for the painting, including Room 1005 and Confidentially Yours, before Hopper chose the more ambiguous Office at Night. In spite of Hopper’s reluctance to assign it specific narrative content, the painting is full of clues pointing to the complexity of male/female dynamics in the workplace. The piece of paper that has fallen to the floor, a detail added only in late sketches for this work, focuses the drama. How did it get there? Will she stoop to pick it up?

Label text for Edward Hopper, Office at Night (1940), from the exhibition Selections from the Permanent Collection, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, December 8, 1996 to April 4, 1999.

Copyright 1998 Walker Art Center

object label acquisition and reproduction history of Edward Hopper’s Office at Night (1940) Walker Art Center, 1998

How did Office at Night become part of the Walker Art Center’s permanent collection?

In 1948, the Walker Art Center and the Young-Quinlan Company (a local department store) copresented the Walker’s fourth annual so-called “purchase exhibition,” New Paintings to Know and Buy. An estimated 9,000 visitors saw the show at the Walker and 18,000 more were reported to have seen it at the department store. The exhibition of 127 paintings was intended both to introduce new art to the public by the “best known American artists” of the time and to support these artists through the potential sale of their work.

Although there are no records of public sales, documents show that the Walker accessioned eight works for its permanent collection, recommended by Visual Arts Curator Norman A. Geske, Walker Assistant Director William Friedman, and Walker Art School teacher Mac Le Sueur. Although Edward Hopper’s Office at Night initially received only two of three votes, it became one of the eight acquisitions. These works were purchased through the Gilbert M. Walker Memorial Fund, which had been established specifically for the Walker’s acquisition of modern and contemporary art.

Where has Office at Night been reproduced?

Office at Night’s reproduction history is diverse and extensive. In addition to exhibition catalogues and reviews, publications addressing a wide range of topics have used this painting as an illustration. Reproduced on note cards, post-cards, and in wall calendars, this image has circulated extensively through our daily lives. Examples of this reproduction history are presented here.

clockwise, left to right:

Edward Hopper postcard booklet, New York: Dover Publications, 1994, Courtesy Dover Publications

Office at Night note card, Courtesy Walker Art Center Shop

Monograph #8, New York: American Artists Group, 1945, Walker Art Center Library

São Paulo 9: United States of America, Washington, D.C.: The Smithsonian Institution Press, 1967, Walker Art Center Library

The Smithsonian Institution organized the American display for the IX São Paulo Bienal and published this accompanying bilingual catalogue. Shown here, it represents one particularly noteworthy exhibition of Hopper’s work which included Office at Night.

The IX São Paulo Bienal became, in part, a special tribute to Edward Hopper–he died five months after being invited to participate. Works by 21 other artists from a younger generation also were included. The pairing of Hopper with these artists was appropriate. As they sought unique ways to represent experiences of their rapidly changing world, all were influenced by Hopper’s highly personal interpretation of American life.

The photograph of Hopper here shows the artist seated in the foreground, in front of his summer studio in South Truro, Massachusetts, in 1960. His wife, Josephine (“Jo”) Hopper, an artist who modeled for all of her husband’s paintings, appears in the distant background.

Walker Art Center, 1944, Moderne Facade added to the old Walker Art Galleries building as part of a renovation finished in 1944

Invitation to New Paintings to Know and Buy, Walker Art Center Archives

Gallery guide for New Paintings to Know and Buy, Walker Art Center Archives

below right:

Tally of recommendations for acquisitions from New Paintings to Know and Buy, Walker Art Center Archives


List of works purchased from New Paintings to Know and Buy, Walker Art Center Archives

The “New Woman” Revised: Painting and Gender Politics on 14th Street, Ellen Wiley Todd, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993, Courtesy Wilson Library, University of Minnesota

The Office, Élisabeth Pélegrin-Genel, New York: Flammarion Press, 1996, Walker Art Center Library

“How the Work Ethic Influences Sexuality,” John Racy, Medical Aspects of Human Sexuality, April 1974, Courtesy Bio-Medical Library, University of Minnesota

The Office Book, Judy Klein, New York: Facts on File, Inc., 1982, Courtesy Minneapolis Public Library

Office Furniture, Lance Knobel, London: Unwin Hyman, 1987, Courtesy Minneapolis Public Library

Professions and Patriarchy, Ann Witz, New York: Routledge, 1992, Courtesy Walker Art Center Shop

Interpersonal Communication, 2nd Edition, Sarah Trenholm, Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing, 1992, Courtesy Macalester College Library

T. B. Walker residence and Art Gallery, circa 1913
The T.B. Walker Collection was open to the public at this 803 Hennepin Avenue site from 1879 to 1927

Thomas Barlow Walker (1840-1928), circa 1880

T. B. Walker, “The T.B. Walker Collection,” circa 1918

Statement by T.B. Walker written when he intended to donate his collection to the city of Minneapolis

R. H. Adams in the Walker Art Gallery, circa 1915
Self-taught curator of the T.B. Walker Collection, 1900-1935

Walker Art Galleries, circa 1930
Constructed in 1927 on the present site of the Walker Art Center, this building was torn down in 1969

List of the T. B. Walker Collection, circa 1936
Includes comments on the authenticity of some of the paintings

Shall We Take It, 1939
Brochure concerning the possible transformation of the privately operated Walker Art Gallery into a public Art Center with federal Work Projects Administration support

Welcome Flyer to the Walker Art Center, 1940
The Walker Art Center opened to the public January 5, 1940

A Survey in Pictures, Walker Art Center, 1940
Booklet describing the activities available to the public at the new Walker Art Center

Everyday Art Gallery, Walker Art Center, 1946
Brochure for a gallery devoted to the appreciation of industrial design


Centergram, Walker Art Center, 1942
Walker newsletter announcing the acquisition of Franz Marc’s The Large Blue Horses

Members of Walker Art Center staff in front of Franz Marc’s The Large Blue Horses, circa 1950

Installation view of Marc’s painting with (left to right): Ralph Dauphin, Alonzo Hauser, Carol Kottke, Assistant Director William M. Friedman, and Walker Director Daniel S. Defenbacher

Gilbert M. Walker Gallery, Walker Art Center, 1952

Sales and Rental Gallery, Walker Art Center, 1954

left to right:

Present Walker Art Center building under construction, 1970

Minneapolis Sunday Tribune, June 20, 1971

New York Times, May 18, 1971

All materials Collection Walker Art Center Archives

Label text for display case containing acquisition and reproduction history of Edward Hopper’s Office at Night (1940), from the exhibition The Andersen Window Gallery, Edward Hopper’s Office at Night: Women at Work, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, December 8, 1996 to April 20, 1997.

Copyright 1998 Walker Art Center