In this self-portrait Opie uses the contrasts of light and dark for which he was particularly renowned to very dramatic effect.
Opie was largely self-trained. Originally from Cornwall, he moved to London at the beginning of the 1780s, where his career was managed by an art critic named John Wolcot. Opie’s robust, striking painting style seemed fresh and new, and was taken as reflecting his origins among the rural working class. The forthright drama of this painting exemplifies his reputation as ‘the Cornish wonder’.