HOPKINS, MILTON WILLIAM
exemplifies the westward migration of New England portrait painters to western New York State in the wake of the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825, and to thenewly settled frontier in Ohio. His stylistic similarities and geographical proximity to the younger portrait painter, Noah North (1809–1880), suggest a mentor-studentrelationship. Indeed, a portrait of a man, signed and labeled by Hopkins, in the collection of the New York State Historical Association led to the reevaluation of bothHopkins’ and North’s respective bodies of work.Hopkins was born in Harwinton, Litchfield County, Connecticut, and moved in 1802 with his family to Pompey Hill, New York. He was married twice, to AbigailPollard (who died prior to 1817) and Almina Adkins, both from Guilford, Connecticut. Hopkins spent his early painting career traveling around Connecticut in searchof portrait commissions, from about 1810 to 1820. His work was probably influenced by Connecticut painters Joseph Steward (1753–1822), Reuben Moulthrop(1763–1814), and Ammi Phillips (1788–1865). In the 1820s Hopkins worked in the Watertown, New York, area, and then in canal towns as far west as Buffalo.In the late 1830s and early 1840s Hopkins (and North) worked in Genesee and Orleans Counties in western New York, and in Ohio City (Cleveland), Columbus,and Cincinnati, Ohio. Hopkins, a progressive Presbyterian, was active in the temperance, abolition, and anti-Masonic movements, and many of his portrait commissionscame from likeminded people. In addition to his oil-on-canvas portraits, Hopkins also offered ornamental painting as well as instruction in art. His frequent practice of showing half-length, seated subjects with one arm draped over a stenciled Hitchcock-type chair hints at his ornamental work. Hopkins’ style is also characterized bywell-modeled facial features and a muted brown background. Hopkins died of pneumonia in Williamsburg, Ohio, in 1844, his career having provided a link from theConnecticut portrait painters of the eighteenth century to the folk art of the American frontier.
Reuben Moulthrop; Noah North; Painting, American Folk; Ammi Phillips; Joseph Steward
D’Ambrosio, Paul S., and Charlotte Emans.
Folk Art’s Many Faces: Portraits in the New York State Historical Association.
Coopers-town, N.Y., 1987.Oak, Jacquelyn, et al.
Face to Face: M.W.Hopkins and Noah North.
Washington, D.C., 1988.