James R. Hopkins: Faces of the Heartland

March 11 - May 28, 2017

A family-friendly opening reception for this exhibit takes place on Sunday, March 19, 2017, from 2 to 4 p.m. Admission is free. Award-winning storyteller Adam Booth will present The Lawrence B. & Shirley Gang Memorial Lecture in HMA’s Daywood Gallery at 2:15 p.m. to discuss the way Appalachians are viewed by themselves and by others while relating his stories to the artwork in the exhibit. Later, during the 4th Tuesday Tour Series at HMA on April 25, 2017, at 7 p.m., join us for a discussion of “Appalachian Art History & Culture” as it relates to this exhibit with Dr. Joy Gritton of Morehead State University. This is a Macy’s Free Tuesday event. Refreshments will be served.

James Roy Hopkins’ formative years on a farm in rural Champaign County, Ohio, prepared him well for a diverse career as an artist, teacher, college administrator, bank president and gentleman farmer. He inherited a strong appreciation for the art world from his mother, an amateur painter and schoolteacher, and the practical skills and work ethic to solve problems and run a complex agricultural operation from his father. His efforts as a painter, especially those works that portrayed the human figure, were lauded by critics and collectors during his lengthy career, and his services as a portrait painter were in great demand throughout his life. In addition, his role as the Chairman of the Art Department at Ohio State University affected the lives and careers of many students as he built a successful program over a 25-year period, one that saw the Department grow its faculty from a small group of six instructors to a diverse and talented staff of 40.

Hopkins originally had his sights set on engineering, which prompted a brief enrollment at Ohio State for study in 1896. His interests in art soon won out, however, and he moved on for a short period of instruction at the Columbus Art School, before traveling across the state to the Cincinnati Academy of Art, where he studied for two years with influential teacher Frank Duveneck. From there, Hopkins moved to New York, where he found work as an illustrator. He felt the need for additional artistic development, so, like many young Americans of the period, he embarked on a trip to Paris, where he enrolled in an art academy and immersed himself in the rich cultural scene. While in France, he developed friendships with many of the leading artists of the day and visited the studios of Claude Monet. While there, he solidified his resolve to paint the human figure.

By 1904, Hopkins returned to America and at this time married Edna Boies, an accomplished artist who would gain international renown for her woodblock prints. The couple soon headed back to Paris, where they enjoyed a successful stay that included numerous invitations to show their work in leading exhibitions. Following the outbreak of World War I, James and Edna returned to the United States, and James eventually took a faculty position at the Cincinnati Art Academy, a role which grew into the directorship following the death of Duveneck in 1919. This stint prepared him to transition to his appointment at Ohio State University, which began in 1923 and continued until his retirement in 1947.

In 1915, Hopkins ventured to rural Kentucky at the invitation of coal baron Robert S. Stearns. His destination was the Cumberland Falls area and the picturesque but isolated Brunson Inn, a popular tourist spot in the region. During this sojourn and for several summers afterward, Hopkins completed a series of genre paintings that featured local residents. Hopkins was undoubtedly motivated by similar works by European artists who featured the peasants of rural France and Holland, and also by the preponderance of images of the Southern mountaineer in American literature, film and popular culture. Like many artists of the day who painted portraits of Native Americans and other marginalized people, Hopkins’ paintings sought to capture a way of life that was seen as both isolated from the modern age and at the same time endangered by encroaching urbanization and industrialization. Hopkins’ Cumberland series proved to be a success with critics and buyers, and his work Kentucky Mountaineer was acquired by the Art Institute of Chicago for its collection.

For the first time in 40 years, a major exhibition will focus upon Hopkins and his rural Appalachian subjects. Organized by the Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio, and Keny Galleries, the exhibition will feature dozens of paintings,
including a survey of his figural work and portraits, with a concentration upon the works he did in the Cumberland Falls area of Kentucky a century ago. The exhibition will provide an opportunity to appreciate the refined skills Hopkins displayed as a figure painter as well as a chance to re-examine his depictions of Appalachian subjects and the cultural forces that created a demand for such imagery.

This exhibit is presented with support from The Isabelle Gwynn and Robert Daine Exhibition Endowment.

This program is being presented with financial assistance from the West Virginia Division of Culture and History and the National Endowment for the Arts, with approval from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts.

Additional support provided by Kirk Emerson and Ron Wright In Memory of Roberta S. and Robert K. Emerson; Will and Kati Holland In Memory of Mark and Jane Bailey; In Memory of the Benjamin Johnston Family; Gregory Mencotti, In Honor of Karen Mencotti; David and Janet Perdue In Memory of Maxine W. Perdue; Rose Riter, In Honor of Cindy Dearborn and AJ Stovitz; and Steel of West Virginia, Inc., In Memory of Robert Land and Nancy Bunting.

James R. Hopkins: Faces of the Heartland

James R. Hopkins (American, 1877-1969), The Hitching Grove, c.1915-1919. Oil on canvas, 26 x 32 inches. Private Collection. This work is featured in the exhibit James R. Hopkins: Faces of the Heartland, which is organized by the Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio, and Keny Galleries, Columbus.