In Drug Store Hopper utilized the brilliance of electric light, his love of architectural features, and his sense of drama to convey eerie nocturnal solitude. In many of his nighttime paintings, dazzling light streams from a window surrounded by darkness. Here the bright lights within the pharmacy, the light over the door, and the unseen street lamp combine to produce geometric designs on the pavement and to illuminate architectural elements. In this late-night scene of the then-ubiquitous corner drug store, Hopper’s New York City is deserted and ominously silent. No people stroll along the sidewalk. No cars crowd the street. The sense of danger lurking in the shadows negates the welcome of the brightly lit window.
As he did in many of his urban paintings, Hopper chose to depict a street corner building—Silbers Pharmacy is seen from a slightly oblique angle. Hopper explores the repeating rectangles of curbing, building, storefront, and signs, and uses bold lettering to punctuate his formal design. The window of this independent drug store displays red and green apothecary bottles, like the running lights of ships in the dark. The patriotic colors of the red, white, and blue window decorations are a reminder that Hopper consistently identified himself with such quintessentially American subjects—the stores, diners, offices, and apartments frequented by ordinary citizens. However, the pride of patriotism is tempered here by the brazen advertisement of a well-known laxative.