Opie, John


August 11, 2022

John Opie (eng. John Opie; May 16, 1761, Cornwall - April 9, 1807, Westminster) - British portrait painter, husband of abolitionist writer Amelia Opie.


"Wunderkind from Cornwall"

Born in Cornwall, in a small village near Perranport, the son of a carpenter. He was the youngest of five children. Opie's family was of Cornish origin. From childhood, the future artist was distinguished by extraordinary abilities in mathematics and drawing. By the age of twelve, he had mastered the geometry of Euclid, and opened an evening school for poor children, where he taught them reading, writing and arithmetic. His father, however, did not encourage his son's abilities. He forcibly taught the teenager his craft and sent him to work at a local sawmill. However, word of the gifted youth reached local physician John Walcott, an educated man who published satirical pamphlets under the pseudonym Doctor Pindar. In 1775, Dr. Walcot visited the 14-year-old Opie at the sawmill, and was surprised that a young man of simple origin had such an extraordinary mind and abilities. After that, Walcot became Opie's mentor and settled him in his home in Truro, after which he helped him with money and advice for many years.

Arrival in London

Living in Truro with Dr. Walcot, Opie began to paint portraits, which quickly became famous and popular in Cornwall. As he got older, Opie began to travel around the cities of Cornwall as an itinerant portrait painter. And in 1781, Opie and Walcot moved to London together, and entered into a formal agreement on the division of profits. Although Opie, by that time a 20-year-old youth, thanks to Walcot already had a good knowledge of painting, the companions decided to present him to the London public as a self-taught child prodigy. This was facilitated by the fact that Opie's portrait, sent to London for an exhibition a year earlier, was described in the catalog as "the work of an amateur genius who had never seen paintings." Convinced that the interest of the London public was already warmed up and fully formed, Walcott, as if yielding to persistent requests, brought Opie to London and presented The Cornish Miracle to leading artists, including Sir Joshua Reynolds, which, in turn,