HC Grace Gifford and William Orpen detail

William Orpen with Grace Gifford

Sir William Orpen (b. Stillorgan, County Dublin, 27 November 1878; d. London, 29 September 1931) was a painter and caricaturist, and the younger brother of painter, architect, cartoonist and comedian R. C. Orpen.

He left school at 12 and studied at the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art, alongside Augustus John (with whom he was to set up a short-lived art school in Chelsea) and Wyndham Lewis. His early cartoons were rejected by Punch, and he took a part-time teaching post at the Dublin School of Art (1902-1914) while exhibiting his paintings.

During the First World War, he served in the army in 1916, and as an Official War Artist in 1917-1919. He drew widely admired caricatures of participants at the Paris Peace Conference. He was knighted in 1918.

He was a very successful portrait painter, although his use of photographs was criticised - Max Beerbohm caricatured him painting a man sitting with his back to the artist, reading a newspaper.


  • Mark Bryant, Dictionary of Twentieth Century British Cartoonists and Caricaturists, Ashgate, 2000, p. 165
  • Bruce Arnold, ‘Orpen, Sir William Newenham Montague (1878–1931)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, Jan 2008, accessed 20 Aug 2010

Online referenceEdit

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