The Permanent Collections

Painting Collection

Sir William Orpen –Man of the West

Man of the West

Orpen, Sir William

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c.1930s, oil on linen, 107 x 97 cm(acquired by the gallery in 1948)


Sir William Orpen (1878 – 1931) was born in Dublin. He studied at the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art, where he excelled in figurative drawing and painting. He continued his education in London, while also spending some time in Paris. Having completed his studies, he occasionally traveled from London to teach at the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art, where he exerted a strong influence on many of his students including Sean Keating.

Man of the West demonstrates how masterfully he uses paint to sculpt light and shadow, drawing the viewer's attention to the eyes so that the subject appears to solemnly return your gaze. Controlling audience attention in this way allows him freedom to sketchily paint the hands and background.

There is nothing superfluous about Orpen’s style; he neither burdens the picture with unnecessary information, nor seeks to impress us with detailed technical flourishes. He uses technical devices in a manner befitting the subject. This painting is less emotive than Keating’s Self-Portrait, but is nonetheless a work of exceptional quality.

Orpen not only enjoys posthumous favour, he was also a very successful artist whose paintings were in great demand during his lifetime. Orpen quickly established a reputation as a master portraitist in Britain, and his works have always been much sought after by collectors. Consequently, Man of the West, Orpen’s painting of Seán Keating, is the most valuable work in the Limerick City Gallery collection.




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