Cape Ann Museum Acquires Hopkinson’s “Three Dancing Girls”


For the last 30 years, Cape Ann Museum visitors have become familiar with a stunning painting hanging prominently at the top of the staircase in the museum’s main hall.  It’s Charles Hopkinson’s “Three Dancing Girls,” a fresh, colorful, lively painting that has been on loan since 1997. 

Well, this month, the museum announced it has acquired the painting from its private owner.

“The thing that I really love about this particular story is that this piece has been on view and loved by visitors since the 1990s,” said Oliver Barker, director of the Cape Ann Museum.  “It always felt like a part of the museum’s fabric.  And, now, it is.”

Barker said Hopkinson holds an important place in the Cape Ann story. 

Charles Hopkinson, a longtime resident of Manchester, was one of the most successful portrait painters in America during the first half of the 20th Century.  Over his 60-year career, Hopkinson painted more than 700 portraits, including two of the United States presidents, four Supreme Court justices, and 65 university presidents, deans, and professors, according to the museum’s archives. 

He was also part of the team of artists, selected by the National Art Committee in 1919, to paint portraits of the delegates to the Versailles Peace Conference.  While primarily known as an oil painter and portraitist, Hopkinson also worked in watercolors. 

For “Three Dancing Girls,” a 1988 essay by Leah Lipton, “Charles Hopkinson: Pictures from a New England Past,” noted that the title should be credited to John Singer Sargent “…after seeing the girls dressed in old-fashioned costumes, dancing on the rocks in Manchester.  Sargent visited the Manchester house in 1916 while he was in Boston working on the murals at the (Boston) public library.”  In 1917, Sargent and Isabella Stewart Gardner reportedly visited the Hopkinson house in Manchester, too, and encouraged Hopkinson to finish the painting.

Three Dancing Girls captures a very personal moment … It features three of Hopkinson’s four daughters,” said Barker, who said the scene is particularly apt given the museum last weekend held its annual Cape Ann Blossoms event in which more than 20 floral designers from around the North Shore created eye-catching arrangements inspired by artworks around the museum.  

One of the arrangements was inspired by and displayed next to Three Dancing Girls.

Barker reports the painting will be sent immediately for professional conservation.

“This will ensure the painting will be enjoyed for decades to come,” he said.

Appreciation for Hopkinson is enjoying what some call “a moment.”  Last year, the Manchester by the Sea Museum acquired three Hopkinson paintings after Matt Genta, then-president of the museum, set his eyes on tracking down works by prominent Manchester artists, including Charles Hopkinson, Anna Coleman Ladd, and Katharine Lane Weems.

Two paintings by Charles Hopkinson on display at the Cape Ann Museum inspired a beautiful floral arrangement as part of the museum’s popular annual “Blossoms” event this month.
Two paintings by Charles Hopkinson on display at the Cape Ann Museum inspired a beautiful floral arrangement as part of the museum’s popular annual …