Edward Hopper's painting of Blackwell’s Island (today called Roosevelt Island) is one of several of his works featuring New York's East River. The island's varied architecture and seclusion appealed to Hopper. He carefully composed the painting in preliminary sketches, omitting and inserting elements to emphasize a sense of isolation. Blackwell's Island suggests a vast distance between the viewer and the subject, creating a feeling of unease and curiosity.
Hopper is one of the key figures of twentieth-century realism. His paintings capture the character of mid-century American alienation, exuding loneliness and melancholy. As in his well-known scenes of bars, hotels, stations, and trains, this work presents a sparse setting with dramatic contrasts of light and shade that emphasize the solitude and drama of modern urban existence.