Stepping Into Edward Hopper’s Lonely World

Edward Hopper’s paintings are full of lonely scenes, even when there are people together, Your imagination always fills in the story. We discovered that he painted his. trademark theme, no matter what he was looking at. Our adventure immersed us into the real-life world of Edward Hopper!

Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks painting, showing the lonely world in the big city

Ursula, a friend of Edward Hopper’s sister, told us roughly how to find the “house by the railroad” in Haverstraw, NY.. We drove around for 40 minutes, looking for it. That’s because Hopper didn’t paint the house as it is. He re-interpreted the house according to his own issues of loneliness and isolation.

Edward Hopper’s House By The Railroad symbolizes a lonely and isolated world

Hopper’s Loneliness: Is Artistic License The Same As Lying?

View of the house by the railroad taken from where Hopper stood when he painted it

Edward Hopper didn’t paint the house as he saw it, we found out.

  1. In Hopper’s painting, it looks like the house is on the level of the tracks.
  2. He removed two bedrooms and removed part of the porch and a few windows.
  3. The NYC Museum of Modern Art says Hopper added deep afternoon shadows, but on the late afternoon we were there, the sun was on the other side of the house so he added a lot of his own to the painting.
  4. The NYC MoMA says he added railroad track next to the house to make it look difficult to access. His message was how modernization was isolating us.

I took some liberties with my photo, too. Below you can see how it really looks from the spot that Hopper painted it.

My rendition of The House By The Railroad

Artistic License In My Photo-editing

  1. The house in my edited photo was taken from the corner of the property with a wide angle lens for my smart phone ( momentlens). I wanted the same exact angle as this photo just above. This eliminated the houses next door so I could isolate the house like Edward Hopper did.
  2. I added the house to this photo just above using the Enlight phone app. The photo already had a slight red shade so I made that a little deeper.
  3. I deepened the shadows just like Hopper did and also isolated the house even more by darkening the house behind it.
  4. The sun in my Instagram post is real.

I love how Hopper interpreted the house instead of painting what he saw. He had a vision of what he wanted to convey. I wanted my photo to share Hopper’s vision. After all, Hopper was the subject of this trip.

Hopper’s “House by the railroad” impressed film director Alfred Hitchcock. He used the painting as a model for the Bates Motel in Psycho. Hitchcock made his own interpretations on the house. He isolated Norman Bates with long stairs and he changed the train tracks for a highway.

Stepping Into History

We parked the car behind the house and I immediately walked up to the porch. As we were taking a few photos, out of nowhere a man’s voice asked, “So you’re Hopper fans?”

This house is large and has several apartments. One of the renters was just coming home. He invited us in and told us about his experiences living in this house.

On the second floor of the actual house by the railroad

Then he said he would introduce us to the owners and knocked on their door! Edwin and Lori Castillo have lived here for 40 years. Lori invited us into her beautifully renovated apartment on the second floor with a spiral staircase to the third floor.

She told us that the daughter of the original owner actually saw Edward Hopper from the window, sitting by the railroad station, painting away! She never saw him come any closer to the house.

Lori is very proud of her house’s fame and has a collection of articles written about it. She loves when people come to visit because she gets to share their passion about the house.

How Did We Meet Ursula?

The day began with no plans, just a drive to escape the city on a hot day. As we were approaching Nyack, NY, we saw a sign for the Edward Hopper museum just five minutes away. The museum has very little. All of the artist’s paintings are in museums or in private collections, but here you get a glimpse into his life.

Edward Hopper’s bedroom

His bedroom had a view of the Hudson River and the morning sun came right through the windows. When Hopper painted “House by the railroad” the population was only 4,400. Today it’s still a small town of just 7,000.

Ursula was a friend of Hopper’s sister
Ursula was friends with Edward Hopper’s sister.

On the porch we met Ursula, who grew up around the corner and knew Hopper’s sister well, but she never felt comfortable talking to the artist. He was very, very tall and stood with a slight hunch and was always grumpy.

Ursula remembered how the wisteria tree behind us in the photo used to reach all the way across the street. The current gardener, she said, doesn’t know how to cut this tree properly.


A view of Edward Hopper’s House By The Railroad, taken from the opposite vantage point

Loneliness & Isolation In “Modern” Times

We have visited isolated, lonely houses, like this one nearby whose ghosts caused New York State legislators to write a new law!

Ursula was happy to find people who wanted to listen to her nostalgia-filled stories. The worst part of old age is the loneliness.

Edward Hopper saw modern life in 1925 as isolating, a time we look back on as so much simpler. The real *House By The Railroad* was filled with friendly, welcoming people. Life has always been all about how we interpret it.

33 comments

  • Wow, this is such an insightful post Aixa! I agree with you on “interpretation” of the subject – I guess, it makes it more original and singular!❤

    • Thank you, Richa! It was fun to learn all about this and then use some of what I learned to enhance the photo. Unfortunately, you can’t explain much on Instagram like you can on a blog, so having both is a nice combination.

  • Such a interesting post Aixa, it’s so great when there is someone attached with the place and can pass all of the stories connected with it. It’s unique experience 👌

    • Yes, it’s a real treat to get the stories directly from the people who have lived them. We were very lucky that day! Thank you, Vesna, for reading!

  • Absolutely fascinating!! My jealousy is solidified. I want this same exact experience and to meet the same exact people. Haha I don’t think artistic license is lying at all. How we interpret things is part of the beauty of life. And you did a fabulous job with your IG post! 🙂

    • It’s funny how everything worked out, just by following our curiosity. I really wanted you to see the real photo because the Instagram post is so far from reality. Thank you so much, Julie!

  • This is such an unforgettable and amazing experience, Aixa. I loved your IG photo and you have such a talent for taking pictures. I really didn’t know that this house from the paining actually exists!

    • Thank you, Lydia! I’m so glad when people from Instagram see this post so they can see the honest photo.

      I love your photos, too! I just followed you on Instagram.

  • I do like his idea of using the train tracks to depict the isolation of modern technology. Lovely photos… especially your instagram one!

  • This is wild! Imagine just a casual drive turned into this! Also most artists seem isolated and depressed, regardless of what tine period they’re in.

    • I know, this was definitely a good day to get out of the house! I’m glad I’m not an artist because it’s too much suffering.

    • He is absolutely a painter I would imagine you loving. Thank you, Bojana, I’m so glad you enjoyed this one!

    • It was so much fun how one thing lead to another. Thank you about the photo, Angela. I’m happy when my Insta-friends see it because it’s not an “honest” photo.

  • Oh wow, I was thinking ‘how the heck did the edit the house from the original like that?’ And then you explained the magic! It looks awesome.

    I actually quite like that Hopper reinterpreted and added a little of his own imagination to the scene and his painting. And then of course reinvented by Hitchcock. It’s fascinating that you got to go in and really get up close to it, and it’s a good job Lori likes people visiting as I imagine there are quite a few who stop by.

    A very interesting point of Hopper being considered grumpy and the aspect of loneliness as a human condition transcending eras and social conditions. It also brings to mind the whole ‘tortured artist’ type of generalised notion, how many who are writers, painters, musicians battle their own mental demons, loneliness and depression. This was such an interesting post, I thoroughly enjoyed it Aixa so thanks for sharing! 🙂

    Caz xx

    • It was an intriguing day! I love how you mention artists’ “mental demons, loneliness and depression”. Maybe those are necessary afflictions that make a person see the world more intensely!

      Thank you for such an interesting, well thought-out comment, Caz!

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