Sold by Order of the Board of the Trustees of THE ART INSTITUTE OF CHICAGO
Sir William Orpen, R.A., R.H.A. (1878-1931)

Sir William Orpen, R.A., R.H.A. (1878-1931)

A Woman in Grey

signed lower left Orpen, oil on canvas
74½ x 49in. (189 x 124.5cm.)

Painted in 1908

Purchased direct from the artist in January 1912
Art Institute of Chicago Bulletin 6, 9 July 1912, p.9 (illustrated)
P.G. Konody and S. Dark, Sir William Orpen Artist and Man, London, 1932, p.267
Chicago, Art Institute, A Century of Progress, Exhibition Catalogue, 1932, p.347

Bradford, Corporation Art Gallery, National Portrait Society, 1910, no.15 as 'Portrait of a Lady'
Chicago, Art Institute, A Century of Progress, Jun. - Nov. 1933, no.272
Munich, Haus der Kunst, Das Aquarells 1400-1950, Oct. - Jan. 1973 (not traced)

Lot Essay

A portrait of the artist's wife, Grace, dated to 1908 by Orpen's biographer, P.G. Konody.

Grace Knewstub and Orpen had met on a painting holiday at Vattetot near Etretat during the summer of 1899 and they were married in 1901. She was the subject of several portraits by her husband including the dramatic 'In Dublin Bay' where she stands against the backdrop of the cliffs at Howth, from 1909, which was sold in these Rooms on 6 March 1992, lot 19 for ?137,500.

Orpen's success as a portrait painter necessitated long absences from his growing family and by 1910 the couple were beginning to drift apart. Orpen began to spend more and more time in Ireland with his mistress, the wealthy American socialite, Mrs. St. George, and Grace remained in London with their young daughters. The affair lasted until 1921 and had begun after Mrs. St. George commissioned a striking full-length portrait in 1906, sold in these Rooms on 7 June 1990, lot 44 for ?220,000. In spite of their separations, this period reflects a very happy time in the Orpens' marriage and Grace's opulent attire indicate's Orpen's growing successes as a society painter.

This work was purchased by the Art Institute of Chicago from the fund gifted by Samuel Putnam Avery, a Hartford engraver and member of the Institute from 1908. He donated his fund in 1910 for the 'art lovers of Chicago' and because of the 'increasing interest in the good work done by so many of our public spirited citizens all over the United States' (Art Institute of Chicago, Board of Trustees Minutes, 10 January 1910)

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