People in the Sun

Media - 1969.47.61 - SAAM-1969.47.61_2 - 90585
Copied Edward Hopper, People in the Sun, 1960, oil on canvas, 40 3860 38 in. (102.6153.4 cm.), Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc., 1969.47.61

Artwork Details

People in the Sun
40 3860 38 in. (102.6153.4 cm.)
lower right in black oil: EDWARD HOPPER frame left edge center incised: 2 back upper left in pencil: GALLERY I
Credit Line
Gift of S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc.
Mediums Description
oil on canvas
  • Group
  • Figure group
  • Landscape — mountain
  • Recreation — leisure — reading
  • Landscape — weather — sun
  • Object — furniture — chair
Object Number

Artwork Description

In People in the Sun, five people sit on the terrace of a hotel gazing toward a line of distant mountains. Stark contrasts and cool light emphasize their static poses and deadpan expressions. The painting was initially inspired by sunbathers in Washington Square Park near the New York City apartment the artist shared with his wife, artist Josephine Nivison. The two toured the country together and spent most summers on Cape Cod. Hopper changed the locale here to a western setting, drawing on memories of tourist destinations he visited in the American West. The figures, crowded into the lower left quadrant, observe but remain apart from the natural setting. The abstracted environment veers between a real view and a movie set, as if Hopper were silently replaying a film about the discomfort of city dwellers confronting the vastness of the western landscape.
Luce Center Label

In Edward Hopper's People in the Sun, five men and women sit on a terrace beneath a vast blue sky. Stark contrasts and cool light emphasize the eerie expressions, frozen poses, and formal attire of the visitors. Hopper distilled his memories of tourist destinations in the American West to create a scene that is strangely familiar but nowhere in particular. The precisely staggered deck chairs and bands of color indicating mountains, sky, and grass create an abstracted environment that veers between a real view and a stage set, as if Hopper were replaying a silent film of a family vacation. People in the Sun suggests a crowd of tourists who feel obliged to take in a famous scenic view, but do so with little pleasure. The canvas may reflect Hopper's discomfort in the West, where he found himself unable to paint with his usual enthusiasm when confronted by the harsh light and monumental landscapes.