Doctor John Wolcot was settled in Truro as a doctor when he met the young Opie. By then, Wolcot had enjoyed a busy and complicated life which included training in medicine, journeying to Jamaica with Sir William Trelawney when the latter was governor of that island, and being ordained into the Church of England.
Wolcot disliked liivng in Cornwall and longed for a chance to get to London -and be able to afford to live there.
He recognised that Opie was a genius, when he first saw a few childish sketches. It was Wolcot who trained Opie, guiding his development as an artist. Wolcot was the man who created the legend of THE CORNISH WONDER.
The understanding was that Wolcot would find the customers for Opie and promote his career; in return Opie would share all the earnings with Wolcot.
Wolcot was the man who engineered Opie's launch in London and ensured that Opie rose rapidly above the general selection of portraitists.
It was all too soon after their arrival in London that Opie married Mary Bunn- who made it a condition of the union that Wolcot would no longer live in the house or take any share of Opie's income.
Wolcot was angry but not too surprised and the two men remained friends, albeit not close.
One condition of the split was that Opie promised he would always paint a portrait for Wolcot if requested. This present portrait is one such work. Opie painted for his friend but expected Wolcot to pay for the canvas!
Wolcot made his own career as a satirist, publishing outrageous and deliciously funny verses lampooning prominent figures. In Truro he mocked the mayor and aldermen, but when he reached London he set the sights higher and aimed for the king. Wolcot's satirical poems abnout George 3rd enjoyed astonishing popularity and he became a celebrity in his own right. He wrote under the nom de plume of PETER PINDAR.
He was buried in Covent Garden Church.
His works are still enjoyed today, though the abundance of topical references makes them rather obscure for the modern reader.
THIS PORTRAIT WAS
Engraved by C.H.Hodges quarto (? Large fol.) mezzo, April 13th 1787 with autograph by T. Smith, 35 New Bond Street.
Also mezzo quarto unnamed, published by G. Kearsley December 23rd 1788 inscribed P.PINDAR Esq.
Also by CHAPMAN
EXHIBITED: NATIONAL PORTRAIT EXHIBITION 1867 . No. 809.
J. STIRLING TAYLOR
A private collection in Massachusetts
POOK AND POOK AUCTION
ROBERT SIMON New York
Private Collection UK