Sir William  Orpen  KBE RA RHA


Stillorgan born Major Sir William Newenham Montague Orpen KBE RA RHA (27 November 1878 – 29 September 1931) was the youngest son of Arthur Herbert Orpen and Anne Caulfield. They lived at Oriel a large house with stables and grounds in County Dublin. William Orpens parents were both amateur painters and recognised that he was naturally talented in that regard. At thirteen he was enrolled at the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art where he won many awards. Between 1897 and 1899 Orpen studied at the Slade School of Art where he mastered painting in oils and began to experiment with compositional devices, using mirrors and collage elements. He reference the works of various masters at this time including Jan van Eyck. He used the element of the convex mirror from van Eyck’s Arnolfini Portrait of 1434 on a number of occasions including in The Mirror shown at the New English Art Club in 1900 and A Mere Fracture painted in 1901.

On completion of his studies, Orpen divided his time between Dublin and London, teaching at both the Chelsea Art School, a private teaching studio and at the Metropolitan School in Dublin. Sean Keating, Grace Gifford, Margaret Clarke, Patrick Tuohy and Leo Whelan were all students of Orpen. Two men, Douglas Hyde and John Singer Sergeant had an influence on Orpens success at this time. Hyde who was a major figure in the Celtic Revival movement of the time was friend and mentor to Orpen, who advised him on collecting impressionist works, the two visiting Paris and Madrid together in the summer of 1904. Lane commissioned a series of portraits of contemporary Irish figures from Orpen for the Municipal Gallery of Modern Art in Dublin.

Artist's Gallery