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To the viewer, it is as if the scene “grew stranger and stranger to the eye” (Nabokov, 152)—to borrow Humbert’s turn of phrase—beyond our “shock of amused recognition” when we identify the minute reproduction of a roadside gas station with its three standard pumps, its rack of cans, its advertising pole and the partially cropped office.
Saving energy, the gas attendant of the Truro station would not light his pumps until it was pitch dark (Levin 1995b, 328)3.
The traffic on the road, and the busybodies who usually hang around a gas station, may have been other impediments to the depiction of that perfectly still painting.
The house itself betrays no sign of life; its lit interior looks unusually blank to the eye, devoid of any life-imparting realistic detail.
Besides being obviously outnumbered by the three lit pumps, the man is somehow also dwarfed by their imposing stature.
Added to the imagined elements in the painting is the appearance of a solitary man who has no model in real life. However, the man represented here is not just a figment of Hopper’s imagination.
In reference to one of the final studies, he is identified by the artist’s wife as “the son of Capt.
The solitary figure may read as a proto-postmodern cameo appearance, an intrusion of the artist himself—or his imaginary son—to enhance the artist’s unique vision of a gas station at dusk.
The singular absence of car or client and the unusual and silent perspective, which anticipates that of s, emphasize the solipsism of the figure.
“He’s painting in the studio entirely now,” Jo Hopper writes.
“Lots more comfortable—but much harder to do,” she adds (Levin, 1995b, 328).