Edward Hopper’s paintings can be interpreted in many different ways.
“Excursion into philosophy” (1959) is one of my favourites and I‘m going to tell you what I imagine when I look at it.
As you can see, this painting shows a man and a woman in a bedroom. The room is quite empty, as we only see a window, a bed, a book and part of a painting. The woman is lying on the bed with her back to us, as if she were sleeping. She seems to be wearing a nightie.
The man is sitting next to her. He’s staring at the floor and seems lost in thought.
According to Jo Hopper, the book was written by Plato. Knowing this, many people have imagined a story about the relationship between light, shapes and reality (referring to the allegory of the cave). This website deals with this idea very well. Gustav Deutch, through his film “Shirley: Visions of Reality”, also shares this view. It’s possible to imagine this story, but that’s not what I see when I look at this artwork.
I don’t know if these people are married or in an extramarital relationship, but either way, I think there’s something wrong between them. I think they’ve just made love (that would explain the woman’s outfit) and the man is cogitating. He’s lost and doesn’t know what to do.
I think he’s wondering how this relationship will go. Will he get up, leave the woman and never come back? Or will he stay, wait for her to wake up and continue his relationship with her?
They’re physically together, but mentally isolated.
Let’s not forget that Jo Hopper was Edward’s wife and muse. All the books and articles that have been written about them mention that their relationship was quite tough. So we can also imagine that this painting represents that.
Maybe I’m wrong, maybe his despair isn’t linked to his relationship but to the period he lived through a few years ago.
Hopper painted this picture in 1959, but we know that much of his work is about how some people felt lonely and unhappy when big cities experienced a great wave of industrialisation and modernisation. So we can imagine that this guy is deeply affected by this change and still doesn’t really know how to live in this “new” society.
Philosophy means the study of knowledge and truth, or a person’s personal belief. For me, it can also refer to the act of thinking deeply about something. So, “Excursion into philosophy” could mean diving into your thoughts, getting lost and not really knowing how to get back to reality or what decision to make.