Edward Hopper showing up at a football game is just about as unexpected as finding out that Edward Hopper was in Vermont. But to my surprise and pleasure, one of the best commercials aired during the 2015 broadcast of the Super Bowl game was inspired by Hopper’s most well-known painting, Nighthawks. The ad, starring Jennifer Hudson, was a clever take on Hopper’s iconic work from 1942. It disappeared from the airwaves almost immediately after the Super Bowl broadcast, however, and I thought it deserved being revived through my re-posting of what I wrote last year.
Regrettably, however, Hopper’s name wasn’t mentioned by the sponsoring company, either in the commercial itself or anywhere on the associated web site built around their advertising campaign’s theme of “dreams” (in retaliation, I won’t mention the company’s name here, though you’ll certainly see it in the ad!). What a shame, I think, that Hopper is being used to sell a product and an idea — that “dreams matter” — without naming the artist whose vision provided inspiration for the ad!
Well, I had to correct this egregious omission. There’s no better way to acknowledge Hopper as dreamer than to quote from a recent book, Edward Hopper Paints His World, by Robert Burleigh with paintings by Wendell Minor (Christy Ottaviano Books, Henry Holt and Company, New York, 2014).
“As a boy, Edward Hopper knew exactly what he wanted to be when he grew up: on the cover of his pencil box, he wrote the words ‘EDWARD HOPPER, WOULD BE ARTIST.’….[N]o one wanted to buy his paintings — not for a long time. Still, he never stopped believing in his dream to be an artist.”
Note that Wendell’s cover painting places Hopper as an observer of the diner scene he painted as Nighthawks, the scene that was recreated as a set in the Super Bowl ad.
Of course one thing that Hopper never dreamed of was that he would be a presence at the Super Bowl. And given his modest and unassuming nature, he probably would not have complained about not being acknowledged as the source for the commercial imagery. But Josephine Nivison Hopper would have protested vociferously, no doubt, expressing outrage at the slight to the offending company, the advertising agency, and the entire audience for the Super Bowl, with tweets to all and letters to the editor of Advertising Age and to the powers that be in the NFL. But since Jo is not here to speak her mind, I will submit and promote my blog post.
Enjoy the commercial — but don’t forget about the wonderful original painting and the great artist, Edward Hopper, who inspired it!