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Sir William Orpen PORTRAIT OF CLARA HUGHES
Lot 72
Price Realised: €16,000
Estimate: €10,000 - €15,000
Sir William Orpen RA RI RHA, 1878-1931 PORTRAIT OF CLARA HUGHES Oil on canvas, 24" x 20 1/4" (61 x51.4cm), signed and dated 1902. Provenance: Commissioned by Sam Hughes, the sitter's father and thence by descent to the previous owner; So... Read more
Sir William Orpen RA RI RHA, 1878-1931 PORTRAIT OF CLARA HUGHES Oil on canvas, 24" x 20 1/4" (61 x51.4cm), signed and dated 1902. Provenance: Commissioned by Sam Hughes, the sitter's father and thence by descent to the previous owner; Sold  Bonhams, 30 November 2004 (lot 12); Private Collection, Northern Ireland. Literature: Bruce Arnold, Orpen: Mirror to an Age, Jonathan Cape Ltd., London, 1981, p.106-110 (ill.col.opp.p.161). Exhibited: On loan to Manchester City Art Galleries. **All bidding conducted through www.deveres.ie. Detailed condition report and additional images available on request** This painting was one of Orpen's earliest commissioned portraits and its award was probably partly due to the success of his exhibits in the New English Art Club winter show of 1900-01, which included The Mirror now in Tate Britain, London. Dating from the period when Orpen was moving towards the establishment of his reputation and away from the exuberant lifestyle of his immediate post-Slade years, we are fortunate that the artist described the trials and tribulations of this commission in his letters to Grace from Manchester, helping us to see Orpen striving not just for likeness but also the humanity which is such a feature of his portrait style. The commission came from Sam Hughes, a Manchester businessman and proprietor of the bookshop, Sheratt and Hughes. Hughes was certainly a great friend of Hugh Lane and it is suggested by Bruce Arnold that it may be by this route that Orpen obtained the commission (ibid.p.109, note 1). The sittings were not without problems, in part deriving from the youth of his subject and her unwillingness to stay still. This evidently frustrated Orpen and we see in his letters how his hopes rise and fall with each sitting. It may be however that the difficulties were not all one-sided as in a letter written to Bruce Arnold in 1977, the sitter recalls that she was very frightened of Orpen. Arnold illustrates one of the sheets sent to Grace which includes a preliminary sketch of the portrait (ibid.p.108). Despite the artist's apparent self-doubt, it is possible to see here in the dexterous handling of the interior and the natural charm of the sitter both Orpen's success in a format that was still a little new to him and a foresight of his portrait of children from later in the decade.
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