Chop Suey

Edward Hopper • Painting, 1929, 96.5×81 cm
About the artwork
This artwork was added since it is referred to in the materials below
Art form: Painting
Subject and objects: Genre scene
Style of art: Realism
Technique: Oil
Materials: Canvas
Date of creation: 1929
Size: 96.5×81 cm
Artwork in selections: 37 selections

Description of the artwork «Chop Suey»

Genre scene "Chop sui" (This is the name of the émigré Chinese dish of meat, vegetables, and rice that is popular in the United States) —Edward Hopper’s most important work in private hands. Critics describe it as “a unique display of the spirit of the times in one of the most interesting periods in the transformation of New York.”

The picture shows two companions sitting in a cafe at a table by the window, and another couple in the background. The main elements of the composition are the painted face of the woman turned towards the viewer, the back of her companion, a window in which a fragment of the street sign is visible, a lamp on the windowsill and a teapot on the table, a coat hanging behind the main character, and a man with a woman at the table in the back. As in many of the works of Hopper, in this special attention is paid to the effect of light on the figures.

The work of Edward Hopper is famous for realistic scenes in which themes of isolation and self are touched upon. The artist often said that his art is “a transcription of the most intimate impressions of nature,” meaning that the process of writing pictures corresponds to memory. This idea could be described differently, for example, when you extract a certain memory, some details arise, but everything that is outside the focus remains an empty background. Chop Sui captures this concept, forcing the viewer to focus on certain sensory elements of iconography, reflecting in fact the theme of isolation.

Although the scene takes place in a social environment, there is a feeling of loneliness. The woman in green is turned to her companion, but she does not seem to communicate with her. Art historian David Anfam even suggested that the heroine was sitting opposite her dark twin. However, given that women could easily wear identical hats, and the second person is not visible, this hypothesis can hardly be called justified.

Meanwhile, detachment is emphasized by the couple in the background: the man does not look at the lady with whom he sits. Each character is closed and isolated from others, focused on itself. The face of the main character can be described as “absent” and “absent-minded” - she does not focus her eyes either on the viewer or on her companion.

And if this picture embodies a concrete thought about the past, this can explain the artist’s close attention to the heroine and ignoring the environment. According to biographer Gail Levin, Chop Sui is associated with a low-priced Chinese restaurant that Hoppers visited. Perhaps Jo - the painter's wife - posed for him.

Author: Vlad Maslov