The man he painted in , a man wearing dark trousers and a dark vest over a white shirt, is in fact, according to Josephine’s diary, “dreamed up by E.himself” as a composite figure “conjured up from all the seafarers that E.In the sketchbook entry for was not painted from nature or “from the fact,” as Hopper used to phrase it—it was “improvised” (Goodrich, 132).
The setting for the painting is twilight, Josephine notes in her entry for .
She records Hopper’s frustration that he could not observe the glow of those round-headed pumps at dusk.
A decade earlier, both the artist and the writer had driven through the American continent in the summer and each in their respective media captured the beauty of the American roadside—often from the vantage point of their automobile—in a manner that stands at odds with the stark realism of most photographic and painterly representations of the time.
Hopper’s reads as the verbal rendition of that tension.
In the years before 1940, the artist struggled to find new subjects.
Although gas stations materialized on every street corner in the 1930s, it is not until that summer of 1940 that Hopper finally applied himself to the task.
Saving energy, the gas attendant of the Truro station would not light his pumps until it was pitch dark (Levin 1995b, 328)3.
The traffic on the road, and the busybodies who usually hang around a gas station, may have been other impediments to the depiction of that perfectly still painting.
“He’s painting in the studio entirely now,” Jo Hopper writes.
“Lots more comfortable—but much harder to do,” she adds (Levin, 1995b, 328).