John Opie

The School Mistress

1784

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In Tate Britain

Artist
John Opie 1761–1807
Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 1023 x 1270 mm
Collection
Lent from a private collection 2018
On long term loan
Reference
L04087

Display caption

This was the painting that established Opie’s reputation in London. It created a sensation when it was shown at the Royal Academy’s annual exhibition in 1784 as ‘The School’. Opie’s handling of paint evoked the most highly-admired Old Masters, like Rembrandt and Caravaggio. What contemporary viewers found remarkable was the combination of realism and dramatic light and shade. This was wholly original, particularly in the context of such an ordinary scene. The school mistress is modelled on Opie’s own mother.

Gallery label, October 2019

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