To the disappointment of many Greenwich Village residents, it was revealed that the diner immortalized in Edward Hopper’s most famous painting Nighthawks (1942) never existed in that fabled neighborhood…or, most likely, anywhere else in New York City. A well-researched expedition, led by Jeremiah Moss, through moldering property records and withering municipal archives failed to locate the wedge-shaped building that would’ve housed such a diner. Even Mulry Square in the West Village, believed to be the most likely setting for the diner, brought research to a dead-end and disappointment to all.
Hopper began work on his painting soon after the attack on Pearl Harbor in December of 1941. The painting represented not only the gloom being experienced across the nation at the time but the loneliness of urban life. Indeed, it went on to become one of the most recognizable, iconic works of the 20th century; a masterpiece of American art.
“The inspiration for the picture may have come from Ernest Hemingway’s short story The Killers, which Hopper greatly admired, or from the more philosophical A Clean, Well-Lighted Place. In keeping with the title of his painting, Hopper later said, “Nighthawks” has more to do with the possibility of predators in the night than with loneliness.” Wikipedia
Moss has concluded that the diner isn’t one that existed at a single location but a composite of many diners that once existed throughout NYC. “We have to assume that the Nighthawks diner stood everywhere, that it came from every possible corner, from bits and pieces of the city, the large and lonely city that Hopper’s art holds for us.”
For a more comprehensive look into the search for Nighthawks: Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York
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