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William Orpen: Politics, Sex and Death

William Orpen: Politics, Sex and Death
Robert Upstone, R. F. Foster, David Fraser Jenkins

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One of the great British artists of the first quarter of the twentieth century, Sir William Orpen (1878-1931) is an intriguing artist who, despite his career as a highly successful portrait painter, remains something of an outsider. Although Orpen is represented in many public collections in the UK, Ireland and the USA, his work does not fit easily into the conventional moulds of art history. This highly illustrated monograph critically reappraises an artist who, at the time of his death, was probably the best-known painter in Britain. T he book reveals the full variety of Orpen's work, from his revitalization of the nude and his conversation pieces to his extraordinary allegories and war paintings, and analyses the series of self-portraits that are a particular feature of his oeuvre. A Protestant born near Dublin, when Ireland was part of Britain, Orpen went to art school there before going on to the Slade in London, where he was one of the stars of its great period. Through his prestigious portrait commissions, membership of the Royal Academy and his knighthood, he became part of the British establishment, but always asserted his sense of Irish identity.

His experiences as an official war artist haunted him and made him cynical of politicians. Although he painted brilliant portraits of these very men, and of generals and war heroes, he also produced some bitter allegories of the lives of soldiers that still appear disturbing and surreal. This major re-assessment of the artist accompanies a retrospective exhibition at the Imperial War Museum, London (27 January - 2 May 2005), and at the National Gallery of Art, Dublin.

Author Info

Robert Upstone, Curator of the exhibition, Roy Foster, University of Oxford, and David Fraser Jenkins, Senior Curator at the Tate Gallery, London..


'...a highly illustrated monograph on the undeservedly sidelined portraitist...'Daily Telegraph, December 2005.

Bibliographic Info

Imprint: Philip Wilson Publishers Ltd
Publisher: Philip Wilson Publishers Ltd

ISBN: 9780856675966
Publication Date: 11 Feb 2005
Number of Pages: 160
Height: 275
Width: 235
Illustrations: 100 colour & 25 b/w illustrations

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