Sir William Newenham Montague Orpen


Portrait of William Orpen
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Name:Sir William Newenham Montague Orpen

Dates:1878 - 1931


Address: 8 South Bolton Gardens, SW5

Dates at address:1908 - 1931


Orpen was born in Oriel, Ireland son of famous lawyer Arthur Orpen. After great success at the Metropolitan School of Art, Dublin he enrolled at Slade School of Fine Arts, London. Here he studied under Tonks, Brown and Steer and shared a class with Augustus John. He married Grace Knewstub, sister of William Rothenstein’s wife Alice, in 1901.

From 1902 Orpen toured Britain on portrait commissions and taught part-time at the Metropolitan School. Visiting Madrid in 1904 introduced him to Velázquez’s works, influencing Orpen to produce more dramatic works. As well as portraits he produced Irish genre pieces but without the nationalism of his contemporaries. By 1914 his paintings were being compared to Sargent and Sickert. Then in 1917 he became a war artist, painting haunting landscapes from the Somme and portraits of the combatants, from POWs to Field Marshal Haig. He also painted the Paris Peace Conference. After exhibiting at Bond Street he gifted all his war works to the nation. As well as painting he also wrote about Ireland and the war and edited magazine An Outline of Art.

After his marriage Orpen moved to Royal Hospital Road, where his three daughters were born, though he spent little time here. Orpen moved out in 1908, settling in South Bolton Gardens where he died.

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