Tom Hopkins was a Canadian painter and printmaker born in Summerside, Prince Edward Island, in 1944. He studied at Mount Allison University and earned a master’s degree at Concordia University in 1987, where he taught from 1983 to 1997. He also taught at McGill University and gave numerous workshops across Canada and the United States. In 1991, a retrospective of his work, titled Narration of Icon, was organized by curator David G. Burnett and presented at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. Hopkins’s work is included in numerous prominent collections in Canada, including the Collection Prêt d’oeuvres d’art du Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, which contains works from the same period as Figures and Horse (1985).
An imposing work, charged with mystery and emotion, Figures and Horse presents a male figure, stoic, calm and soft-faced, against a halo of hazy light. On his right shoulder, the man is carrying the ghostly body of a young woman with blonde hair, a variation on the “death and the maiden” theme found in some works by Swiss painter Johann Heinrich Füssli. In the background is the silhouette of a horse, which seems to be raising a cloud of grey dust with its foreleg. The man seems to merge with the animal and nature; his torso and thigh—multi-coloured and textured by brush and spatula—suggest a fight, a confrontation. The curve of his body seems to follow that of the horse’s flank, evoking a sense of fusion with the animal, and, by extension, with the figure of the centaur. The man’s left leg, coloured red and green, seems to be striding through tall grass, while his right leg blends into the background. A filigree of fiery red infiltrates the pictorial layers of this life-sized work, imbuing it with weight and constant tension. (A. L.)