(Born Co. Dublin, 27 November 1878; died London, 29 September 1931). British painter, chiefly famous as one of the leading fashionable portraitists of his day. Orpen was a child prodigy and had a brilliant student career at the Slade School. He worked mainly in London but he kept up links with his native Ireland, teaching part-time at the Metropolitan School in Dublin, 1902–14. His style had much in common with that of his friend Augustus John, being vigorous and painterly but sometimes rather flashy. He was at his best when he was away from his standard boardroom and drawing-room fare, and his numerous self-portraits are often particularly engaging, as he pokes fun at himself in character roles. Up to the First World War he had a steady rise in worldly success and after the war he earned an average of about £35,000 a year, rising to over £50,000 a year in 1929—a colossal sum then.

Text source: The Oxford Dictionary of Art and Artists (Oxford University Press)

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