Saturday, 25 October 2014

Edna Boies Hopkins


I never appreciated just how good Edna Boies Hopkins was until the postman handed over a book about her this morning. It says a lot about the kind of images we see online to start with and the way they don't always do an artist' work justice. An exception would be the old post on 'Japonisme' but in Dominique Vasseur's book, print after print holds its own, and it was worth every penny, nickel and cent.

She is one of the few artists I find hard to decide which images to choose (when I have a choice). She was not just prolific, she was consistent. I may not like everything she did quite as much but nothing gets the thumbs down, which is saying quite a lot.


But here is what they call a personal selection. It's heavy on the famous flower prints but those are the ones I like most. From the more obvious Japanese imbued ones of her early years to the art deco images of the twenties, I think they are all like her, terrific.


Less was obviously more with Hopkins. What she was doing was essentially simple but done with great style and imagination. She was one of the generation of American artists who spent a lot of time in Paris as well as training with Arthur Wesley Dow and in Japan and it's that wealth of backgrounds that show up so well in all the prints here. She is full of nuance, like a spring day.


She spent ten years in Paris between 1904 and 1914 then with war looking imminent, he got a job teaching in Cincinnati and they moved back home. But Cincinatti didn't hold her and independent woman that she was, she taught in New York and set up with printmakers like Blanche Lazell in Provincetown and from 1915 began to use what's been called the white-line method.


I'm not going to go into details, partly because it doesn't appeal to me so much and partly because I just think it gave many of the prints a fake modernity and for Boies Hopkins something was lost in the mix. B.J.O. Nordfeldt was one of the artists to take this method to its logical extreme but I'm not convinced by a lot of his work anyway. But Boies Hopkins is another matter.


  1. I guess I'm going to have to buy the book. These are great. I like the one white line print you showed as it becomes almost abstract and the surface pigmentation and graininess of the white line method helps it. The other flower studies are sublime--especially the mixed bouquet of poppies, ranunculi and field flowers.....with the tan field. Thanks. You're blog is better than art school.

  2. The book was good value on Amazon, Andrew, and you won't regret it.

    I'm not sure which print you mean. Is there one with a tan field? I still remember my slip up over Thomas Todd Blaylock's marsh marigolds, so I'm being careful what I say. Aren't those cornflowers and marigolds?

  3. That one second from the bottom, you hardly ever see -- so thanks for that! The first time I saw her work, the Museum of Fine Arts, in Boston, published a set of note cards featuring 4 of her designs, that purple iris, a dartura, I don't remember the other ones. I bought them, and was blown away.


  5. Seeing an artist's work for the first time on a postcard takes us back to the days before there were all these books like Dominique Vasseur's full of colour illustrations and before the internet. At least in those days you could sometimes afford to buy a print even if you didn't know who the hell the artist was. I think I must have come across Hopkins first on your blog.

  6. These are absolutely beautiful. Specifically love the second one down, as it reminds me of a style of batik print we get here in the Thai-Malaysian area. Lovely. Thanks for these :)

  7. Of course I don't know what your particular type of batik looks like but it is the white areas and especially the white lime method she was using at the time that gives the prints the formal quality of batik.