Portrait of Michael Davitt
Sir William Orpen RHA (1878 – 1931)
ArtistSir William Orpen RHA
TitlePortrait of Michael Davitt
Dimensions24 × 24.5cm
ProvenancePresented by Miss Aileen Bodkin, daughter of Dr. Thomas Bodkin, to Sligo County Library and Museum, in 1963. In memory of Dr. Thomas Bodkin.
William Orpen was one of the most successful artists of his generation. Born in Dublin, he studied at the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art, where he later became an influential teacher, and at the Slade School, London. Although he made his name painting the British aristocracy, Orpen also produced a number of portraits of distinguished Irish men for a series that Hugh Lane had originally commissioned from John B. Yeats. Orpen’s portrait of the Michael Davitt (1846–1906), Leader of the Land League, is now in the Collection of the Dublin City Gallery: The Hugh Lane, and is amongst the most successful of the series.
This painting has none of the refinement of the Hugh Lane work and appears to be an oil sketch more closely related to Orpen’s drawing of Davitt in the National Gallery of Ireland. Orpen only had a few sittings with Davitt and it is possible that both these works were executed from memory rather than life. Unusually, the Model and Niland portrait depicts Davitt’s torso from the right side. He had lost his right arm in his youth and was therefore usually depicted from the left.
Written by Riann Coulter