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Showing posts from July, 2015

William Orpen, Irish Portrait Master

John Andrew Hamilton, Viscount Sumner, 1931?



Irish portrait and WWI painter William Orpen was born on November 27, 1878 in Dublin. Orpen is an interesting figure in the period he was born in, and by reading his bio one gets the impression that his life may have made an interesting film. Successful during his career, Orpen painted a large amount of military and formal portraits with a freshness and candor not often seen in British painters, especially in his portraits that are "unfinished". Orpen is essentially unknown today but his work deserves merit for his immediacy and presence, no matter who he painted, and his portraiture also serves as a snapshot of an era in British history that photographs could not capture quite the same way.

In the above study of John Andrew Hamilton, Orpen achieves a strong presence with a great economy of brushstrokes. Note the stern gaze and tightness of lips that convey a figure with authority. Even with a quirky grayish-blue swash of backgrou…