Leftover Light: Early Etching by Hopper evokes night scene of Sprout’s Fifth Street

Back in March of last year, 2018, I wrote the first of a three part essay about Tobin Sprout’s “Fifth Street,” with it’s indomitable billboard and mysterious figures.

I recently came across the an early etching, “Night Shadows, 1921” by Edward Hopper, that shows the incredible but subtle drama possible in the urban landscape at night.

Check out “Night Shadows” by Edward Hopper

What’s great about this example is that the subject of the etching is almost entirely the incidental light of the street. Everything is either described by the single light source, or doesn’t exist.

Sprout adds a lot more detail (well, he is making a painting anyway) to his painting, but he also gives this incidental light a focal point with the billboard – it’s a brash move – but it’s an excellent look at what makes the urban landscape tick.

And just like this 1921 etching from Hopper, Fifth Street is also a testament to the timelessness sense of space and feeling of an empty street, totally dependent on whatever light is kicking around to even exist.

I wrote three essays last year about Fifth Street. This excerpt is a good description of both Sprout’s painting and this scene by Hopper:

Like vision, painting depends on light. The primary lighting of Fifth Street is actually made from the remnants of billboard light. Using this leftover light to make the painting is another nod to our conscious or unconscious immersion in, and our willing or unwilling dependence upon, the commercial environment.

Carefully Described Terrain: Sprout’s Fifth Street – Part 1 of 3: The Billboard

Very cool reinterpretation of this very American scene 70 years after Hopper’s etching. This painting, due to it’s controversial feature of a massive cigarette billboard, is still available. Someone let the American Lung Association know, this is also a cultural benchmark for how massively our culture has shifted away from tobacco acceptance in the last 25 years.

Fifth Street, 1993, Tobin Sprout, American b. 1955, 42 x 32 inches, oil on canvas
Fifth Street, 1993, Tobin Sprout, American b. 1955, 42 x 32 inches, oil on canvas

Original analysis by T.R. Brogunier, posted September 07, 2019

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