Published  01/03/2005

William Orpen at the Imperial War Museum

William Orpen at the Imperial War Museum

William Orpen is currently up for reappraisal and the Imperial War Museum has started to make a name for itself in this way. Firstly, there was the superb Eric Ravilious exhibition last year. Now, Orpen has been rescued from the vaults and we can see full evidence of his remarkable talent. Orpen was born in 1878, into an Anglo-Irish Protestant family in Ireland. In some respects his background was similar to Francis Bacon, but this prodigy lived a generation earlier. The paintings which Orpen executed during the First World War formidably reveal the grit of war. This, coupled with an evident sexual promiscuity, gave Orpen all the motivation he needed to develop as a serious, committed painter.

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