John Opie was born at St Agnes, Cornwall; the son of a mine carpenter. At c.15 his talent was recognised by Dr. John Wolcot, a physician, amateur artist and critic, who went into partnership with Opie, promoting his career. After Opie first exhibited at the Society of the Artists in 1780, the two arrived in London, Wolcot promoting Opie as the ‘noble savage’. George III purchased two paintings and by 1783 Opie had secured substantial patronage. His subjects included portraits, fancy pictures and history paintings. He became a member of the Royal Academy in 1787 and Professor of Painting at the Academy in 1805. Despite a passion for history and fancy pictures, he mainly exhibited portraits. His death at 45 is partly attributed to overwork.
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