The Lighthouse at Two Lights: An Analysis of Hopper’s Solitude

The Lighthouse at two lights by Edward Hopper Painting of light house

“Hopper’s viewpoint is essentially classic; he presents his subjects without sentiment, propaganda, or theatrics. He is the pure painter, interested in his material for its own sake, and in the exploitation of his idea of form, color, and space division.” 

Charles Burchfield (1933)

Where is it now?

This oil on canvas painting by Hopper is exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. The canvas measures 74.9 by 109.9 centimeters. The painting was credited to the museum by the 1962 Hugo Kastor Fund.

The Subject and The Setting 

The subject of this piece is the Cape Elizabeth Light, a 120 feet tall lighthouse along with a small coastguard station. It is also known as ‘Two Lights’, hence the title. As the name suggests, there used to be two lighthouses close to one another at one point in time. However, one of them was decommissioned in 1924. Hopper was fascinated by architecture which is reflected in his attention to detail. 

Hopper’s interest in naval architecture and his childhood years spent in shipyards are reflected in this work. The artist emphasizes the importance of the grand lighthouse by using a low angle. In this way, the structure towers over us, thereby drawing our attention to its symbolism.

The Lighthouse at Two Lights: Meaning and Analysis 

The Lighthouse at two lights by Edward Hopper Painting of light house
The Lighthouse at Two Lights (1929) by Edward Hopper, via the Metropolitan Museum. Fair Use

Even though one of the lighthouses was decommissioned, the place was still called Two Lights locally. The title of the painting also retains the old name, perhaps as an acknowledgment of its history. Hopper makes us aware of the comfort in what used to be, however, we simultaneously perceive a drastic change. This inevitable change acts as a painful reminder of the past. Changes might occur for the better but it will always be difficult to let go of the past.

The soreness of change makes the viewer connect to the inevitable, and often morose changes in their lives. To Hopper, the two lights at Maine were a reminder of his pleasant summer vacations. This drastic change in what he thought would always be the same aroused strong feelings that pushed him to put the scene on canvas. Hopper, in a way, takes a stand against forgetting the past. 

Solitude is a striking theme in the painting. Even though the structures have been provided with realistic details, we tend to focus only on their outline. The vast sky acts as an expansive background against which stands the lonely silhouette of a lighthouse. We see a solitary subject forced to accept the changes of an industrial society.

In the absence of any emotions in the painting, it is easy for us to project our feeling on the subject. Moreover, a clear solid background reduces distractions and enhances the solidarity of the lighthouse. The steady march of time is always accompanied by solitude. Every individual experiences change in different ways owing to their unique standpoint. 

Color and Lighting

A cool pastel palette to paint a bright summer day intensifies the positivity and resilience of the scene which is intact despite a drastic change. On close observation, a nerd would notice a very prominent cirrus cloud in the otherwise clear blue sky. Hopper nudges us to notice the drastic difference in the weather with which a lighthouse is usually associated. The dark and ominous clouds of the past make way for a brighter future and vice versa.

The shadows make blunt contours on the lighthouse and adjoining structures. Combined with the thick application of paint the scene creates an impressive stagnancy that cannot be missed. 


Without the use of clear emotions, Hopper evokes our empathy toward a shared human experience. In all his paintings, including the Lighthouse at Two Lights, we see several common themes such as loneliness, melancholia, and an overpowering sense of stillness. Perhaps it is the integrity of his work that pulls us toward an existential crisis whenever we look at Hopper’s work.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where is the Lighthouse by Hopper?

Edward Hopper’s painting “The Lighthouse at two Lights” is presented at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. The actual lighthouse depicted in the painting is located in Cape Elizabeth, Maine.

Where are the Edward Hopper paintings in NYC?

Edward Hopper’s paintings are located at two eminent museums in New York. These are the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art. 

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