Arthur Hopkins worked with equal success as an illustrator and painter. Establishing his reputation through contributions to literary and news magazines in the 1870s, he gradually developed as a watercolourist of landscapes and genre scenes that, in their sensitivity, have been compared to the work of Helen Allingham.
Arthur Hopkins was born at Chestnut House, 87 The Grove, Stratford, Essex, on 30 December 1847, the third of nine children of Manley Hopkins, a marine insurance agent. His siblings included the poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and the illustrators, Everard and Edward Hopkins. In 1852, the family moved to 9 Oak Hill Park, Frognal, Hampstead, and four years later, Mr Hopkins became Consul-General for Hawaii in London, a position that he retained for over 40 years.
Arthur Hopkins was educated at Lancing College, Sussex, between 1860 and 1865, and revealed his talent for drawing during these years, and especially on family holidays, when he sketched alongside his brother, Gerard. However, he worked for some years in the City of London before turning to art, and seems to have made a gradual transition from one career to the other.
While living at 47 Manchester Street, in 1867, he exhibited a work at the Dudley Gallery, in its first ‘Winter Exhibition of Cabinet Pictures in Oil’. By 1869, he had begun to contribute to The Illustrated London News (doing so until 1898), while in 1870 he illustrated his first book, Isaac Gregory Smith’s The Silver Bells. His formal studies in art seem to have been confined to a year at the Royal Academy Schools, in 1872.
In 1873, Hopkins married Maria Rebecca, the daughter of Daniel S Bockett of Heath House, Hampstead. They settled at 4 Kensington Crescent, but moved north to 22 Ann’s Villas, Notting Hill, in 1876. Hopkins soon began to make his name as a magazine illustrator, and especially for his contributions to The Graphic (1874-86), which were admired by Van Gogh. Notably, he collaborated with George du Maurier, in 1875, on the illustrations to Elizabeth Lynn Linton’s The Atonement of Leam Dundas, which appeared in The Cornhill. Three years later, he illustrated Thomas Hardy’s novel, The Return of the Native, for its initial appearance in Belgravia, of which he was a staff member.
During the mid 1870s, Hopkins also sent his first exhibits to the Royal Academy and the Royal Society of Painters in Water-Colours, and was soon exhibiting internationally. He was elected as an associate of the RWS in 1877, and a full member in 1896, and would later serve as the society’s treasurer. He was also a member of the Royal Society of British Colonial Artists.
Moving to ‘Tre Vean’, 80 Finchley Road in 1884, Hopkins concentrated on painting from the 1890s. Sketching trips to the West Country and family holidays in Whitby helped influence his imagery. The last of his three children was born in 1894, and his expanding family probably encouraged a further move, around the turn of the century, to ‘Hurstleigh’, Arkwright Road, Hampstead (which was previously the home of the watercolourist, H G Hine). A volume of large cartoons, entitled Sketches and Skits, which appeared in 1901, perhaps brought to a close his more humorous vein, but he continued to work as a painter into the 1920s. He died at home on 10 September 1930.