William Orpen

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William Orpen was born in 1878 and was the youngest of five children. His father was a lawyer and two of his brothers became lawyers. However, his mother saw he had a gift for art when he was very young. When he was almost thirteen years old, Orpen went to the Metropolitan School of Art in Dublin. He won many prizes for his artwork. In 1898 he went to study in London.

Orpen was one of the most famous portrait artists of the 20th century. He painted many famous people, e.g. the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) and Woodrow Wilson. He lived in London but enjoyed coming home to Ireland for holidays. He also taught at the Metropolitan School of Art in Dublin. He was known as a great teacher.

During the First World War, Orpen was an official war painter. He did many drawings and paintings of soldiers. Most of these paintings are now in the Imperial War Museum in London.

Orpen published two books during his life. The first book was about his early life - 'Stories of Old Ireland and Myself'. The second book was about his time during the First World War - 'An Onlooker in France'. He died in 1931 at the age of 53.