portrait of a gentleman c1800 attributed to john opie

Portrait of a Gentleman c.1800; Attributed to John Opie.


| $10,610 USD | €9,144 EUR

Status: Reserved

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John Opie was born in St Agnes, near Truro in 1761. From an early age he showed a talent for drawing, in addition to a more general academic excellence. He soon established a local reputation for portrait painting and was discovered by John Wolcot who introduced him to London as “The Cornish Wonder”. This nickname was mainly due to the fact that he was completely self-taught.
Opie was introduced to London in 1781 as 'the Cornish Wonder'. His style as a portrait painter was marked by strong realism, and striking contrasts of light and dark.
This very fine and insightful portrait was created at the turn of the 18th century, and shows the sitter against a dark background with a hint of a rich drapery to his left. The half-turned head with its dark hair is set against the bright white necktie and waistcoat. The extraordinarily strong presence of the sitter evokes the spirit of Baroque painting during the seventeenth century. It was Opie’s abilities in chiaroscuro which is said to have won the praise of Sir Joshua Reynolds, who reputedly described him as ‘like Caravaggio and Velazquez in one.’ The brooding spirit of early-Romanticism, through the lens of knowledge of the Old Masters is strong in this work.
Born the son of a carpenter in a tin-mining district of Cornwall before being discovered as a child prodigy. His natural gifts in drawing were discovered by Dr John Walcot (1738-1819), whose protection and patronage helped to nurture the boy’s gifts before he was brought to London in 1781 where his works caused great sensation. He quickly received the patronage of the Royal Family alongside leading figures of the nobility and cultural elites. Opie was elected an Association of the Royal Academy in 1786 and was made an RA the following year. His successful portraits of the likes of Mary Delany, Mary Wollstonecraft, Samuel Johnson and Henry Fuseli have become some of the most lasting and iconic images of these sitters. Although also known as an artist of historical and genre scenes, his portraits have received perhaps the most enduring interest and fame since his death. His efforts in portraiture placed him in direct competition to the likes of Thomas Lawrence, James Northcote and Henry Fuseli.
After his death at the age of 45 in 1807 Opie was interred in the crypt of London’s St. Pauls’ Cathedral . This location, in the crypt next to Reynolds, demonstrated the high regard felt for the painter amongst his contemporaries.
CONDITION: in excellent conserved condition apart from a repaired large L-shaped tear to the left of the background. In most lights this is not visible, but, as can be seen in Image 6, under a glancing light it shows. Allowance for this has been made in the asking price.
SIZE: 36 x 31.25 inches inc. frame.
PROVENANCE: Private London Collection.

Internal Ref: 9234


Height = 91.5 cm (36")
Width = 79 cm (31")
Depth = 5 cm (2")

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