Early Sunday Morning – 30 March 2020

Here is a picture of an empty street at the beginning of the day. The row of small businesses which are closed, and the white curtains in the windows of the apartments above, suggest people might be present, but at the moment of viewing on-one can be seen. This might be a picture about the absence of people, activity, purpose, or it might be about hiddenness, about imagining beyond the presenting façade. All of life is here, or none – you decide.

The picture is constructed with strong horizontal shapes: the edge of the pavement, the row of green shops, and the red apartments above. It also has sense of time; the long shadows from the hydrant, barber’s pole, and a third shadow from a lamp-post not seen, indicate that this is the start of the day. These shadows will shorten and then lengthen again, whether anyone appears or not. The picture was painted at a time of national anxiety, when many individuals thought themselves forgotten or abandoned because of an economic crisis. If a person is not seen, do they cease to matter or exist?

The picture is ‘Early Sunday Morning’ (1930) by Edward Hopper. The word ‘Sunday’ was a later addition to the title – originally this was a depiction of any early morning. This is one of Hopper’s favourite pictures. ‘When we were at school’, he said, ‘we debated what a room looked like when there was no-one to see it.’ This is an existential question, what kind of life is there in any place if no-one is present?


In quietness and trust is your strength

Isaiah 30:15

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

1 Peter 1:8-9