William Orpen (1878–1931):
Kneeling Figure of Woman - a Study for 'The Holy Well', circa 1914 - 15
Framed (ref: 593)
Signed 'ORPEN' and inscribed 'Mr Vivian'
Pencil, 23 x 18 3/4 in. (58.5 x 47.5 cm.)
Provenance: Mrs Howard (Florence Evelyn) St George (owner of the finished picture); Sotheby's, London, Mrs St George Sale, 26 July 1939, as part of lot 105 (The Holy Well and 17 studies sold to Reid and Lefevre for £210); Reid and Lefevre 1939; Lawrence Rill Schumann Art Foundation, Boston, Massachusetts,USA; Tannenbaum Collection, Canada; private collection, Canada (Frederick Weinberg); private collection (before 1995)
Exhibited: Royal Academy, London,1933, 52nd Winter Exhibition, Commemorative Exhibition - Works by Late Members: The Holy Well (no.68) and all 17 studies owned by Mrs St George (nos.735-50,766) were exhibited, but the catalogue descriptions are not sufficient to identify the studies individually. However there are relatively few pencil-only drawings, so the numbers can be narrowed to 735,737,747 or 750.
Literature: Phillipís, London,21 November 1995, catalogue (lot 120 repr.); Sotheby's, London, Irish Sale,16 May 1996, catalogue (lot 458, repr. p.144).
Between 1913 and 1916, Orpen executed three large Irish allegorical canvases, Sowing New Seed for the Board of Agriculture and Technical Instruction for Ireland 1913 (Mildura Arts Centre, Australia), The Western Wedding 1914 (untraced, believed destroyed), and Nude Pattern: Holy Well, also known as The Holy Well 1916 (National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin). According to Bruce Arnold, 'These are three major works which pursue themes of Irish art and culture, Irish faith and morality, Irish landscape, dress and manners, Irish sexuality' (Arnold, Orpen: Mirror to an Age, London 1981, p.294).
All three paintings were preceded by preparatory drawings of exceptional precision and sensitivity.The model for this drawing is believed to be Connie Martin,a professional artist's model, living at the time at 258 Kings Road, Chelsea.The same pose is found in a number of Orpen's paintings, including early studies for The Western Wedding and, in his later work, Palm Sunday 1931. Orpen was possibly inspired by the figure of Mary in Piero della Francesco's The Nativity c.1483-4 (National Gallery, London), and drew inspiration from that artist for all three of his Irish allegorical works.
According to the artist's studio account book, this study, referred to as 'Kneeling Figure of Woman ... for Wellí,was originally intended for Mr Vivian,although it in fact appears to have been acquired directly from Orpen by Mrs Howard (Florence Evelyn) St George,with the finished picture.
The above notes have been extracted from an essay written by Christopher Pearson, the unabridged version of which can be read in the biography link.
We are grateful to the Orpen Research Project for their assistance in the preparation of this entry. A catalogue raisonne of the oil paintings of William Orpen is currently being prepared by Christopher Pearson of the Orpen Research Project. For further inquiries, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.