Maj. Sir William Newenham Montague Orpen, KBE RA RHA

Is your surname Orpen?

Research the Orpen family

Maj. Sir William Newenham Montague Orpen, KBE RA RHA's Geni Profile

Share your family tree and photos with the people you know and love

  • Build your family tree online
  • Share photos and videos
  • Smart Matching™ technology
  • Free!

Maj. Sir William Newenham Montague Orpen, KBE RA RHA

Birthplace: 44 Oriel,, Stillorgan, co. Dublin, Ireland
Death: September 29, 1931 (52)
13 Royal Hospital Road, Chelsea,, London, United Kingdom
Immediate Family:

Son of Arthur Herbert Orpen and Anne St. George Orpen
Husband of Grace Orpen, Lady
Partner of Florence Evelyn St. George
Father of Mary Robson; Christine Grace Violet Casey; Diana Evelyn Olivier and Vivien Antonia Bligh Clarke
Brother of Richard Francis Caulfeild Orpen; Charles St. George Orpen; Grace Mary Jackson and Arthur Herbert Stack Orpen

Managed by: Sally Ann McConnell
Last Updated:

About Maj. Sir William Newenham Montague Orpen, KBE RA RHA

Ireland, Select Births and Baptisms, 1620-1911 about William Newenham M. Orpen Name: William Newenham M. Orpen Gender: Male Birth Date: 27 Nov 1878 Birth Place: Stillorgan, Dublin, Ireland Father's Name: Arthur Herbert Orpen Mother's name: Annie Orpen Canlfield FHL Film Number: 256016



William Orpen was born in County Dublin and was trained at the Slade School of Fine Art. He took up a studio in the Royal Hospital Road, Chelsea and exhibited at the Chenil Gallery, London. He painted portraits of over 600 members of the wealthier classes and their families. He also painted in Ireland and was a leading artist in the 'Celtic revival' movement.

William Orpen married Grace Knewstub in 1901, with whom he had three daughters. However, an incorrigible womaniser, he later left his wife and returned to Dublin to teach at the Metropolitan School. However the couple never divorced and when William was Knighted in 1918, Grace became Lady Orpen.

Orpen was elected ARA (Associate Member of the Royal Academy) in 1910.

When war commenced in 1914, Orpen raised funds for the War Effort by auctioning blank canvases on which the purchaser's portrait would be painted.

He was commissioned into the Army Service Corps in 1915 and carried out routine administration work at Kensington Barracks. In 1916 he was appointed as an official War Artist on the Western Front and was knighted for his services in 1918. He was given a commission in the rank of Major which gave him access to the front. His evocative works in France and Flanders, where he sketched and painted every day left an indelible impression on him. "An Onlooker in France, 1917–1919" was published in 1921.

After the Armistice, he served as Official Artist at the Versailles Peace Conference. Orpen was appointed RA (Royal Academician) in 1919.

He died of failing health and alcoholism in 1931 aged 53.


Sir William Orpen (1878-1931) was one of the most successful artists of his generation, was renowned as a portrait painter, war artist and genre painter. He trained at the Metropolitan School of Art, Dublin from the age of thirteen, and won the British Isles Gold Medal for life drawing in his final year. He enrolled at the Slade, where he was taught by Frederick Brown, Henry Tonks and Philip Wilson Steer. From 1899, he exhibited at the New English Art Club and built a spectacular career as a portrait painter. Orpen found new purpose for his work with the coming of the First World War, and the establishment of the War Artist’s Scheme. He left for France in April, 1917, and became immersed in the war and its aftermath. In later years he worked in Paris and London, and was titular editor of An Outline of Art (1923), an illustrated history of art. His death was marked with a retrospective show at the Royal Academy. A monographic exhibition was held at the Imperial War Museum in 2005.



view all

Maj. Sir William Newenham Montague Orpen, KBE RA RHA's Timeline

November 27, 1878
Stillorgan, co. Dublin, Ireland
September 12, 1902
Age 23
September 6, 1906
Age 27
January 1, 1912
Age 33
March 24, 1913
Age 34
September 29, 1931
Age 52
London, United Kingdom