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James R. Hopkins was born May 17, 1877, in Irwin and graduated from Mechanicsburg High School in 1895. As a child, he gained exposure to art through his mother, Nettie, an accomplished self-taught water colorist. Hopkins enrolled at The Ohio State University to study electrical engineering, but realized a strong desire to study art. In 1898, Hopkins entered the Art Institute of Cincinnati, studying under noted artist Frank Duveneck and acquiring the academic draftsmanship that is prevalent in his work. After two years, he moved to New York City to work as a medical illustrator. To hone his skills, Hopkins moved to Paris, enrolling in the Academy Colarossi and opening a studio at 55 Rue de Dantzig. Hopkins flourished in Paris, marrying Edna Boies, who he had met at the Cincinnati Art Institute, and establishing friendships with such French Impressionists as Pierre Renoir, Edgar Degas, and Claude Monet.
(Continued from other side)While in Paris, James Hopkins was accepted as an Associate in the Societe Nationale des Beaux making him one the period's few American figure painters considered talented enough to exhibit in the Salon's prestigious shows. With his wife Edna, a noted artist in the revival of the wood-block print, Hopkins traveled to Egypt, Italy, China, Japan, and Ceylon, which greatly influenced the designs incorporated in his art. Upon return to the United States, Hopkins briefly taught at the Cincinnati Art Institute before being appointed chairman of the Department of Fine Arts at Ohio State University where he served in that capacity until 1947. Hopkins retired to the family farm "Darbyland" near Mechanicsburg where he died January 23, 1969. As a gifted human figure painter and an able academic administrator, James Hopkins is noted for his pioneering regional paintings of the Cumberland Mountain people.