Frances Anne Hopkins 1838-1919: Canadian Scenery


112 pages
Contains Photos, Illustrations, Bibliography
ISBN 0-920539-30-0
DDC 759.11




Reviewed by Virgil Hammock

Virgil Hammock is president of the Canadian section of the International
Association of Art Critics and Chairman of the Department of Fine Arts
at Mount Allison University.


Frances Anne Hopkins, an Englishwoman who painted in Canada in the
nineteenth century, was labeled condescendingly, like most Victorian
women painters, a “printress,” but not by herself. She thought
herself to be a “professional” artist and, indeed, she was, and a
good one. Because of a set of circumstances beyond her control, she has
remained more of an artistic footnote in Canadian art. This book sets
out to right that wrong. It is the catalogue of an exhibition of her
work titled, rather prosaically, Canadian Scenery, that was organized by
the Thunder Bay Art Gallery in 1990. The two essays in the catalogue by
Janet Clark and Robert Stacey are well worth reading.

The essays complement each other and add both to the history of
Canadian art and to feminist art. Women had an important position in
early Canadian art and are now only being recognized for their pivotal
role. We know little of the artistic training of Hopkins, except that as
the daughter of an upper-class family and the granddaughter of a
well-known British portrait painter, she would have likely received some
artistic training in a private school as part of her “finishing.” At
20 years of age, in 1858, she married an official of the Hudson’s Bay
Company; for the next 12 years, she traveled with her husband in the
wilds of Canada.

Some of Hopkins’s paintings, or rather the images of her paintings,
have become Canadian icons without the public having a knowledge of her.
Her painting Shooting the Rapids, in the National Archives of Canada,
has been used both on coins and stamps. Because much of her work is in
museums and archives rather than in galleries, it has been generally
regarded as historical record rather than art.

I usually have problems with historical reappraisals of minor artists
by academics who are often trying to prove some point that has little to
do with artistic excellence. This is not the case with Frances Anne
Hopkins—she deserves a second look.


Clark, Janet E., “Frances Anne Hopkins 1838-1919: Canadian Scenery,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 14, 2024,