By Mark Skeffington
My discovery of Canadian artist William John Hopkinson happened by chance.
A woman who offered to sell me a Tom Roberts silkscreen – a copy of Road to the Village printed by Sampson-Matthews Ltd. in the 1950s – asked if I wanted to see a painting she had picked up at an auction. She was hoping I would buy it, too.
The painting was an unsigned 16 X 20 inch oil on artist panel (see photo above). On the back of the panel was written in blue ink: “An original oil painting done by the late W.J. Hopkinson in the late 1950s. Haliburton District.” The inscription continued: “Feb. 6, 1984. Violet F. Forsythe (Daughter of W.J. Hopkinson).”
I had never heard of the artist W.J. Hopkinson, but I was taken by the sky in the painting, broad palette knife strokes of intertwining pinks, blues, purples and skin tones. I didn’t like the bottom portion of the painting as much: a chaotic forested landscape. But the sky was incredible. I bought the painting. I don’t remember what I paid for it, but I think it was less than $200. That was how I discovered W.J. Hopkinson some 43 years after his 1970 death.
On the back of the frame was taped a clear plastic bag containing a card. On the cover was a printed sketch of “Bill” Hopkinson by his friend and fellow artist Isabelle Van Zant (see picture at top of Biography). Inside was typed out a brief biography of W.J. Hopkinson, giving details of his life and listing some businesses that had purchased his paintings.
That card gave me a starting point to search out more information on W.J. Hopkinson, and eventually – three years later – led to the creation of this website.
About the Writer: Mark Skeffington is an art collector & co-founder of FineArtCollector.ca, a Canadian fine art gallery; he lives in Niagara, Ontario, Canada.