Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of a Young Lady in a white dress, c.1800 

John Opie RA (1761-1807)

Portrait of a Young Lady in a white dress, c.1800, John Opie
Oil on canvas
18th Century
30 x 25 in (76 x 63 cm)
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The portraits of John Opie are distinguished by their bold characterisation and by an unaffected realism. His work, as here, is rooted in the elegant manner of English portraiture at the close of the eighteenth century. Opie was on his surest ground when portraying sitters of personal charm or character -as well as when depicting children, whom he invariably frees from the sentimentality of convention. Here we have no doubt that the sitter''s modest downward glance and her suppressed smile suggest an engaging and pleasant disposition, and such is the candour of Opie's approach that there is no suspicion of flattery.

This honest approach to character and likeness that endeared Opie to his portrait sitters also stood him in good stead as a painter of historical and literary subjects. Against the elegant mannerism of Northcote and the unpalatably bizarre creations of Fuseli, Opie's Shakespearean and Biblical illustrations strike a more plausible note. His Assassination of James I of Scotland (RA 1786) and Assassination of Rizzio (RA 1787) won public acclaim and ensured his election to the Royal Academy.
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