Painter and printmaker Edward Hopper produced closely observed urban views, landscapes (largely of New England), and interior scenes—all either devoid of or sparsely populated by people. Though he insisted that his paintings were straightforward representations of the real world, their overall sparseness imbues them with a sense of loneliness, estrangement, and stillness. Light, whether from electric bulbs or the sun, defines the places he depicts and shapes the mood of his works. A late afternoon glow pervades House by the Railroad, which features a grand Victorian home fronted by the tracks of a railroad. The tracks create a visual barrier that seems to block access to house, which appears moored and isolated in the surrounding empty landscape. Its old-fashioned architecture and lack of any sense of occupancy imply that the house may be a relic of tradition, lonely and forgotten in the push towards urbanization and progress, as suggested by the railroad tracks.
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