02 March 2011

Sir William Orpen: A Man Between Two Worlds

Sir William Newenham Montague Orpen (1878-1931) was a successful Irish painter and a man of contradictions. He was a society portrait painter who went to the Western Front as an official painter of World War I. Living in London he was a part of the New English Art Club, which favored Impressionism and included Americans James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834-1902) and John Singer Sargent (1856-1925). Traveling back to Ireland, Orpen was involved with The Celtic Revival along with playwright John Millington Synge (1871-1909) and poet William Butler Yeats (1865-1939). He considered himself ugly, which he exaggerated in self-portraits yet the women he depicted where beautifully nuanced. He died at the age of fifty-two having seen his brilliant career as a portrait painter dim and never recovering from seeing the lost souls of war.


  1. what a lovely post!
    Is the first portrait a woman named Gertrude Legendre?

    She is someone I have always studied.......and it looks like her.

    Thank you!

    and I love your blog!!

  2. Thank you Penelope, Yes it is a portrait of Gertrude Sanford Legendre who deserves her own post. Kind regards, Kendra

  3. will you please write a post on her? I find her one of the most fascinating women of the 20th century!


  4. Kendra, I have been collecting information to do a posting on this artist. Thank you for the information! He is interesting on so many levels. Barbara

  5. Hi Barbara~ You are welcome. I stumbled onto Orpen when I was getting in the St. Patrick's Day spirit and I was intrigued by his work and life.

    Penelope, I would love to do a posting on Sanford Legendre. Sadly my blogging has been slowed down by the demands of the tangible world, so I'm not sure when I will be doing it!

    Best, Kendra


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