Nighthawks was painted in 1942 by American artist Edward Hopper (1882 to 1967). It was intended to reflect the somber uncertainty in America that followed the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbour in late 1941.
The following is a departure from this website's concentration on international pressures of the present and future. This is a look at a famous work of art of the past, but through a bit of poetic licence it is linked with present events:
Four people exist at the Nighthawks Cafe, in lower Manhattan. It is dark and quiet. No movement outside.
Yellow light gleams strong in Nighthawks though too weak to blaze through the glass to give the surrounding street life. No pictures on the walls, only canary yellow paint.
A Cafe for people who drift or pass. One staring down at his cup. Two occasionally chatting. The three men wear formal day hats even though it is midnight.
The busy 1940s soda slinger wears white like an icecream man. All in white at that time of night. The shiny coffee urns also strangely spell icecream but are hot. A brown swing door is the soda slinger’s way out to a back room then freedom – but on the whole he’s resigned, almost content.
The Cafe has heard many things, knows the secrets of thousands of late night desperate people who’ve hunched there for years. Tired people after long days. Few words spoken. Often just the sound of coffee being poured and sipped.
Nighthawks will exist for many years, be renovated, jazzed up. It will enjoy high times, the wealthy, the sad who exist.
Then in 1966 crushed by a steel ball it will make way for a World Trade Centre.
by Peter Coates
June 22, 2008