Anita Bartle, the sitter in this early portrait by Orpen, was a journalist and author in Dublin. At the time he painted it, Orpen had just returned from a visit to the Prado in Madrid, where he had studied portrait sketches by Rubens. His training at the Slade in the 1890s had been in drawing rather than painting. He wanted to try a modern version of Rubens's direct technique, and used this portrait of a friend as an exercise. Orpen uses only red, with black and white, and leaves visible the brushstrokes, in the manner of an oil sketch. He later gave the portrait to the sitter as a wedding present.
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