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

Portrait of Grace

Sir William Orpen, R.A., R.H.A. (1878-1931)
Portrait of Grace
coloured chalk on dark grey paper
6 1/8 x 4 ¼ in. (15 x 10.8 cm.)
Executed circa 1901.
Acquired by the present owner's grandfather, and by descent.
possibly, Brighton, Public Art Galleries, Watercolours and Drawings by Modern Artists, May - June 1937, catalogue not traced.
possibly, Kingston upon Hull, Ferens Art Gallery, Modern Paintings and Drawings, April - May 1956, catalogue not traced.

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Alice Murray
Alice Murray

Lot Essay

Both Portrait of Grace and Self portrait are believed to be studies for Open’s double portrait, William and Grace painted in 1901, the year of their wedding. Bruce Arnold makes reference to this painting, 'He painted a large canvas of himself and Grace, side by side. A study for this double portrait was included subsequently in the Carfax exhibition as No. 7, 'Two Portraits' priced at £6, while the painting was sent in to the Society of Portrait Painters, Orpen's first work to be exhibited with that group. It is remarkable. Orpen, even then, was a creator of fact, not of myth. It cannot be described as a happy honeymoon painting. But it is a truthful examination of himself and his wife, raw and uncompromising. The artist's own expression is serious and intense. There is no attempt at self-caricature. Grace is painted in a stiff and slightly gauche pose, taller than he - as she was - leaning back, and with a hint of suspicion or doubt in her eyes. Her auburn hair is plainly done in a hank at the nape of her neck, and there is a reddish flush to her cheek, not altogether attractive and hinting at her rather poor health. Nevertheless, the painting's simplicity and directness of statement are compelling, as is the richness of tone, and the firm handling of light' (B. Arnold, Orpen: Mirror to an Age, London, 1981, p. 102). It is not clear whether the 'two portraits' exhibited in the Carfax Gallery, denote two separate drawings or a double portrait on a single sheet.

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