Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
travel as gas stations are defi nitely part of the
trip and the roads entice the viewer to follow.
A further example of a captured travel
moment is Jo in Wyoming (1946), a watercolour
illustrating how the Hoppers combined travel-
ling and painting as inseparable activities. Once
again, this is almost a photograph Hopper might
have taken during the course of the car journey.
The same might be said of a particular fl eeting
moment when a glimpse was caught as if from
a train window. House at Dusk (1935) resem-
bles a photograph taken from a vehicle in
motion. The viewer is looking from a slightly
higher standing point to capture solely the upper
part of the building but which seems not to have
been the camera's objective. Today, the tourist
en route would most likely delete this 'failed
photograph' from the digital camera.
Depictions of other means of transport are
also present in his work. Trains and boats are
a relatively common topic among Hopper's
paintings - his boyhood spent in Nyack, a
coastal town, dictated an early interest in sea-
going vessels, such as trawlers for instance
(Levin, 1980).
Thinking of the travel world, two examples
of people 'on the move' are given by depictions
of train interiors where lonely characters sit in
carriages, seemingly half unaware of the sur-
rounding world and immersed in reading:
Compartment C, Car 293 (1938) and Chair
Car (1965). These last two canvases are a lot
more representative of the estrangement Hop-
per's solitary fi gures usually typify. The lighter
tone of the naïve gaze at landscape cannot be
traced here and no sign shows us that these
inward-looking travellers are enjoying their
through the windows a warm yellowish light
reaches the street, stressing the inviting charac-
ter of the place. The same atmosphere cannot
be found in Hotel Room (1931) or Hotel by the
Railroad (1952) where a sense of sadness per-
vades the paintings, especially the latter, the
sombre colours underscoring the inexpressive
attitude of the elderly couple.
Hopper's Hotel Lobby (1943) is also a
space eliciting doubtful impressions, while both
Hotel Window (1956) and Western Motel (1957)
present the onlooker with solitary, introspective
characters. The places are devoid of the move-
ment expectable in hotel public areas. More-
over, the window at Western Motel overlooks a
dark landscape, which evokes an ominous feel-
ing of barrenness. But the most enigmatic paint-
ing dealing with accommodation is Rooms by
the Sea (1951). The near surrealistic tone of this
painting stresses a baffl ing contradiction. The
light hues employed elicit a sense of warmth;
nevertheless, the perspective used in the paint-
ing leads the onlooker to realize that beyond the
door you plunge into the ocean. There seems to
lurk a rather sardonic message in this painting.
Proximity to the sea is generally valued by tour-
ists, tour operators and hotels alike. But in this
case, the vicinity of the sea becomes a revealed
and concealed threat to whoever leaves that
room and seems to imply many of the negative
things in tourism - a too liberally euphemistic
description of destinations is just one example.
Rooms by the Sea , understood within the tour-
ism context, is probably one of the most ironic
and incongruous images you can think of and
surreptitiously satirizes much of the travel dis-
course produced both verbally and visually in
the tourism fi eld, sustaining a counter-narrative
that opposes Hopper's inviting landscapes. We
could almost think of this painting as a remark
on Echtner's assertions:
Staying over
In terms of tourism promotion, Brown (1992)
discusses the symbolic nature of the tourism
experience. Tourism is presented as a form of
symbolic consumption whereby tourists display
their identity and social roles through the
destinations they choose. Thus, it is argued that
tourism destinations represent specifi c symbolic
experiences. The goal of tourism promotion
becomes the portrayal of these symbolic
experiences using the appropriate sign systems.
(Echtner, 1999, p. 52)
The third motif anchoring Hopper's travel nar-
rative is accommodation. Hopper's representa-
tions of hotels are confi ned to the lobby, lounge
and bedroom, that is to say, to the public areas
of the hotel, emphasizing the tourist perspective
inherent to the paintings. Rooms for Tourists
(1945) presents viewers with a small well-lit
place, possibly a small inn or bed & breakfast.
The off-white façade is brightly illuminated and
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