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William Orpen (1878–1931)


Son of a Dublin solicitor, Orpen was a child prodigy – he went to the Metropolitan School of Art in Dublin when only 12 years old. He went on to the Slade School of Fine Art in London from 1897 to 1899, where he was greatly influenced by his teacher, Henry Tonks. Orpen was knowledgeable about art history and often included references to the work of the masters in his own paintings. Unlike many of his contemporaries he did not study abroad, although he did make trips to Europe, where he visited galleries and was familiar with the work of the Impressionists.


Fig. 7.9 Breton Girl, 1890s, by Roderic O’Conor, oil on canvas, private collection


Influences


When O’Conor moved to Paris in the 1880s he came in contact with the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists, and immediately adopted aspects of their style and techniques. Van Gogh in particular interested him and led to his striped technique, which he developed over his 10 years in Brittany. When he moved back to Paris in 1904 his style developed differently, to a more Intimist style.


Early 20th century


This next group of artists had most of their careers in the 20th century but continued to paint in the style that had begun in the 19th century. They often followed the educational path of the earlier artists, with an initial education in Dublin followed by time in France.


Fig. 7.10 The Mirror by William Orpen, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin


CHAPTER 7: IRISH ART IN THE 19TH AND 20TH CENTURIES 131


From 1899 he exhibited with the New English Art Club in London and with the Royal Hibernian Academy in Dublin. His early paintings are often interiors in dark tones in the Dutch style. Convex mirrors, like the one in the Arnolfini Portrait by Jan van Eyck, are sometimes used as a centrepiece


ART IN IRELAND


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