Prof. Robert Davidson: “Edward Hopper’s Hotel Paintings and Modern Occupancy”

“Edward Hopper’s Hotel Paintings and Modern Occupancy”
Robert Davidson, Spanish, University of Toronto; Director, Northrop Frye Centre, Victoria College, University of Toronto.

This talk considers Edward Hopper’s paintings of hotel interiors from a new perspective. Rather than read them through the lens of ennui and alienation that is commonly ascribed to his work, Davidson suggests that his pieces capture for the first time on canvas the modern mode of being that is specifically generated by the hotel: occupancy. He offers a brief history of the hotel in western painting and lays out the way that this notion of “occupancy” dovetails with a larger theory of hotel space that he is developing, before considering the examples of Hopper’s Hotel Room (1931), Hotel Lobby (1943), Hotel by the Railroad (1952), and Hotel Window (1955). Robert Davidson’s first book, Jazz Age Barcelona (2009) was shortlisted for the 2010 Canada Prize in the Humanities.