Robert Hopkin was a landscape, marine, animal, and historical painter.
Hopkin immigrated to the United States from Scotland in 1843 and settled permanently in Detroit, Michigan. He traveled often and spent the year of 1870 in Chicago. His earliest known painting, dated 1845, was a marine view – a subject which became his specialty. He opened his own studio in 1853, producing ship pictures, seascapes, landscapes, and decorative works. He decorated the interiors of passenger steamboats, churches, and buildings in Detroit, Denver, and New Orleans among other cities. His major decorative accomplishments included the interior of the Detroit Opera House (1869) and the Cotton Exchange in New Orleans (1883). He also created banners for various organizations, including Detroit’s military units in the Civil War, and the banner Landing of Cadillac for Detroit’s Bicentennial Celebration in 1901.
Hopkin was the leading painter in mid to late 19th century Detroit and was celebrated in that city during his lifetime. He is known to have produced more than 390 oils and watercolors, comprising views of the Great Lakes, the local landscape, and views from his travels to Ireland, Scotland, and throughout the U.S. One of a number of large shows of his works was held at the Detroit Museum of Art in 1907, at which time his fellow artists founded the Hopkin Club, later called the Scarab Club.
He married in 1851 and fathered six children, two of whom became artists. He was also the grandfather of the artist Arthur Hopkin Gibson.
He appears to have made a trip to the White Mountains in the late 1870s. The Detroit Institute of Fine Arts has a painting titled In the White Mountains dated 1878. The University of Michigan Museum of Art has a painting titled Mount Chocorua, New Hampshire, from Walker’s Pond dated 1880.