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Hopkins earned respect as an artist and as a gentle person

July 12, 2018   ·   0 Comments

Written By CONSTANCE SCRAFIELD

When an artist’s friends and colleagues come together to fund, collect and hang a show of his work, after his death, that talks of respect that would thrill anyone. So it is at the Headwaters Arts Gallery in the Alton Mill Centre for the Arts, opening this Saturday, July 14, a showing of the late Denis Hopkins’ work to acknowledge his proliferation and excellence of paintings and to celebrate his life.

Denis Hopkins came to Canada as a medical doctor. Trained in Edinburgh, Scotland, Dr. Hopkins practised for many years here. His focus was working as a psychiatrist, to help patients struggling with mental illness. He worked for many at Homewood Health Centre in Guelph, later becoming its Medical Director.

When he retired from medical practise at the age of 70, Dr. Hopkins went back to his painting, now full time and with the same rigour and interest he had show in his career as a doctor. For some years, he attended an arts school in France,

Said John Ashbourne, friend and fellow artist, “His paintings are magnificent, his still lifes, very traditional.   He was very talented at painting metal and his brass pots with flowers in them are stunning. After retiring at 70, he enrolled in a specialist school of art in France because he wanted to concentrate on realistic painting – still life, the human form, landscape. He spent eight months a year in France, for six years, studying. He used to say that he wanted the same precision and clarity in his painting as he did being a doctor.”

Realistic painting is defined as art which is very precise, detailed and accurate. It is a actual representation of the visual appearance of objects and scenes. Complicated and demanding, this was Dr. Hopkins’ choice of style and he spent his latter years improving his talent for it.

For about the last ten years of his life, he invited other artists to his studio once a week to share his knowledge of realistic painting as he had studied it in France.

This is different from Realism, a movement of art beginning in the mid 1880’s which depicted, once in a while in a sometimes brutal and unapologetic manner, the life of working class people at their daily chores and lives. Some of this art is rendered in slightly stylistic ways.

John Ashbourne told the Citizen, “I came from the U.K., where I was practising in one of the leading hospitals of Europe, in England. When Denis and I met here, we had medicine in common and that we both were coming from the U.K.

“Denis was an extremely gentle, quiet man.

“Many artists,” he began to explain, “expect to be catered to when they come to a gallery with their art, asking when things will be ready for them but not Denis. He would just stand back, quietly, not expecting any special treatment.

“He encouraged other artists to come to his studio to paint and there are still a number of artists who gather at this studio to paint as they have done for years.”

Dr. Hopkins painted every day after his retirement, primarily for the sake of the joy of painting. He did not pursue a career, as such, as artist, although his work was exhibited widely, from time to time, in Ontario.

As a result, when he died last year, he left behind a reasonable body of beautiful work. What would one do with such a collection, painted by a man who loved to paint and, more than that, enjoyed talking about art with fellow artists and anyone interested in the subject?

There is an good answer to that question and Dr. Ashbourne outlined it: “Denis’ wife thought about how much Denis loved to share his art and talk about art with other people. So, she thought it would good to lessen the prices on his paintings so that people could afford to buy them and have them in their homes.

“She is not in need of selling them,” he remarked, “but she wants to give people the chance to own them, brilliant paintings that they are.”

Denis Hopkins – A Celebration- the paintings are already hung and can be seen in the Headwaters Arts Gallery while the Opening reception is Saturday, July 14 from 1:00 to 4:00 pm. The show and sale runs until August 12.

         

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