Donelson Hoopes, 73; Expert on 19th Century American Painting

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Donelson Hoopes, 73, a curator and art historian who was a leading authority on 19th century American painting and worked at museums across the country, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, died Feb. 22 in Bangor, Maine, of complications from a stroke.

The author of more than a dozen books, Hoopes had a particular interest in watercolors and coined the term “the American medium” to describe the attraction of U.S. artists to the form, particularly in the 19th century.

The subjects of his books included American painters Winslow Homer, John Singer Sargent and Thomas Eakins.

Hoopes was born in Philadelphia and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania. He served in the Army from 1953 to 1955.


In his 20s, he was director of the Portland Museum of Art in Portland, Maine. He later served as a curator of exhibitions and collections at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and was curator of painting and sculpture at the Brooklyn Museum.

In Los Angeles, he was curator of American art at LACMA from 1972 to 1975. He later served on the Committee for the Preservation of the White House.

From 1983 until his retirement in 1997, Hoopes was director of the Thomas Cole Foundation.