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The Hitching Grove,
James Roy Hopkins (1877-1969)

View Artist Bio
Oil on canvas
26 x 32 inches
Signature Details: James R. Hopkins
Status: Private collection, Ohio

Born in Irwin, Ohio, but raised in Mechanicsburg, Hopkins studied at the Columbus Art School, and spent two years with Frank Duveneck at the Cincinnati Art Academy. He worked in New York as an illustrator in the early 1900s, and then spent a year in Paris at the Academy Colorassi. Afterwards he traveled in Japan, China, Ceylon, southern Europe and North Africa with his bride and fellow artist, Edna Bel Boise. The couple settled in Paris and remained until World War I forced their return to the United States in 1914. Soon after, Hopkins joined the Cincinnati Art Academy faculty. When Duveneck died in 1919, Hopkins took his place as head of the school.

Hopkins specialized in genre scenes of beautiful women posed in sunlit rooms or outdoor gardens. He also painted the portraits of fashionable French and American ladies. But the subject that brought him the most acclaim is a series of pictures executed in 1917, when he took a studio in the Cumberland Mountains of Kentucky and painted “pictures along very different lines.” A Mountain Courtship is the most significant work of the group. In the words of a contemporary reviewer, it “tells a story so poignant that in it Ibsen might have found inspiration” (Haslett, “The Recent Work of James R. Hopkins, {International Studio}, February 1918, p. cxviii). 

Two young lovers walk along the banks of the Cumberland River in the falling shadows of late afternoon. The scene, presented as if it was being performed on a stage, brings the actors close to the picture plane, and we see that the “delicately beautiful” girl and her “tall, magnificent” mother stand in sharp contrast to the impaired youth who accompanies them. The boy’s  “condition,” a result of the “continued intermarriage of families in small communities,” occurred all too often in this remote region, but it was rarely discussed and never painted. Hopkins was the first to find models among the mountaineers to paint, and to use the background of their lives to produce a picture. “If the story told is sometimes unpleasant,” the critic wrote, “there is always the beauty of line and colour to appease the supersensitive. . . .in [A Mountain Courtship] the pictorially beautiful and the subjectively interesting are happily united” (Haslett, p. cxix).

A Mountain Courtship was awarded the Thomas B. Clark prize at the National Academy of Design in 1920. Other paintings in the series include Market Day in the Mountains, A Mountain Preacher, and The Moonshiner. Nancy Rivard Shaw

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