Sir William Orpen

Lady Orpen

exhibited 1907

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Not on display

Sir William Orpen 1878–1931
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 972 × 864 mm
frame: 1235 × 1130 × 90 mm
Presented by Alfred A. de Pass 1920

Display caption

Orpen's portrait of his wife was painted while they were on a holiday at Margate with William and Mabel Nicholson and their children. They had been married only for a few years, and he portrayed her repeatedly. This portrait was studied by artificial light, and the stormy background added later, with its glimpse of sea and sand dune. The Orpens and Nicholsons loved to dress up. This conglomeration of gloves, scarf, veil, black ostrich feather and bonnet may not have been meant seriously, and Orpen often let loose his sense of humour in his private paintings. He was then just beginning his hardworking career as a society portrait painter, which was to lead to a great number of portraits of spectacular but prosaic realism.

Gallery label, September 2004

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Catalogue entry

N03549 LADY ORPEN (?) 1907

Inscr. ‘Orpen’ b.l.
Canvas, 38 1/4×34 (97×86·5); a strip 2 (5) wide along the bottom was previously turned over a smaller stretcher.
Presented by Alfred A. de Pass 1920.
Exh: N.E.A.C., autumn 1907 (59); R.A., Late Members, winter 1933 (121); Manchester, April–May 1933 (43).
Lit: Konody and Dark, 1932, pp.82, 222 and 271, repr. pl.18.
Repr: Frederick Wedmore, Some of the Moderns, 1909, after p.102; Pickle, 1923, pl.8.

Orpen married Grace Knewstub, the sister-in-law of Sir William Rothenstein, in 1901.

The date ‘1907’ recorded in previous catalogues as inscribed after the signature is no longer visible.

Published in:
Mary Chamot, Dennis Farr and Martin Butlin, The Modern British Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, London 1964, II

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