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From Jacksonville Beach, FL

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Influence of "Boulevard of Broken Dreams"

               "Boulevard of Broken Dreams"(1984) by Gottfried Helnwein is a parody of Edward Hopper's most popular painting, "Nighthawks"(1942).

                   Characters in "Boulevard" are (l to r) James Dean, Humphrey Bogart,
                   Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley

 I wrote an article in 2011, "Living with Nighthawks"  which discussed both "Nighthawks and "Boulevard of Broken Dreams."
Since writing that article, several new parodies of both paintings have surfaced. Since "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" is itself a parody of "Nighthawks," what you have are many parodies of a parody.  One of the most popular influences of "Boulevard" is the punk rock group, Green Day's 2006 Grammy winning song "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" on their album American Idiot. The song was the Video of the Year from the 2005 MTV Video Music Awards.  It is a lovely song and hardly falls into the category of "punk."  Have a listen.

A line from the song, "I walk this empty street/On the Boulevard of Broken Dreams/where the city sleeps." The broken dreams in the real lives of the four characters in the Heinwein painting are well know. All rose to mega-star status and then their lives and dreams were dashed:  Presley died after extended use of alcohol and drugs; Monroe died of a possible drug overdose;  Bogart abused alcohol;  Dean died in an auto accident while only in his 20's.  In the original "Nighthawks" painting the four figures seem equally isolated and alone sitting in a cafe in the middle of the night. "'Nighthawks':  The Parodies" is an entire website devoted to old and new theater and art about that painting. See the website.

Helnwein painted separate portraits (which you can see at ) of James Dean, Marilyn Monroe and Humphrey Bogart  from "Boulevard."  I can't show them here because of copyright permissions.

For me, the extreme influence of both Hopper and Helnwein' paintings is unusual. I can think of few other modern paintings having such influence.  Sure the Renaissance painting "Mona Lisa" has had influence and parody, but possibly not in its own time.  Edward Hopper remains one of my favorite artists, but sadly, his day has ended. Hopper died in 1967 after a very successful life as an artist.  Helnwein currently lives in a castle near Dublin, Ireland with his wife and four children.  


1 comment:

  1. Where can I buy a print/ copy of Gottfried Helnwein’s Boulevard of Broken Dreams?
    Thanks for any advice. Steve