Apartment Houses is one of Edward Hopper's early paintings and was his first oil painting to enter a museum. It was painted in 1923 - an important year for Hopper. He sold his watercolour "Mansard Roof" to Brooklyn Museum and moved to Greenwich village but perhaps most importantly, his relationship with his future wife Jo Nivison, deepened that summer.
Hopper's Apartment Houses invites the viewer to peer through the open window of a corner bedroom. Like a voyeur, the viewer observes a plump woman with blonde hair and flushed cheeks going about her work. There are a few pieces of furniture that create the setting for Hopper's typical narrative style of painting. The viewer sees a mirror stand, a picture on the wall and must try to work out if the woman is the owner of the house or a maid changing the sheets and what the expression on her face might suggest. The viewer is left to wonder what is going on and what clues the rest of the room might reveal if only it could be seen.
What is clear from the painting is the statement about apartment living. As the viewer looks through one window, a plant can be seen on another apartment window ledge. The city dwellers live so close together with such a lack of privacy yet their lives are completely separate and anonymous. The themes hinted at in this painting were to reappear many times in Hopper's future paintings.
Apartment Houses also demonstrates the wonderful use of light that Hopper manages to create in many of his paintings. The viewer can almost feel the sunlight bathing the wall of the Apartment Houses as the woman goes about her work, her cheeks perhaps flushing with the heat.
Apartment Houses was exhibited and purchased at the annual exhibition in the Pennsylvania Academy that year. Hopper's distinctive style of narrative or realism continued to develop, gifting the art world with a wonderful slice of American urban life as seen through Edward Hopper's eyes for over four decades.