JOHN OPIE, R.A.

THE GUARDIAN OF LYDFORD FALLS, DEVON

Oil on canvas
58 inches by 38 inches

PROVENANCE:
Mr. TURNER, Exeter (the original owner)
Rev. Donald M. Owen purchased in 1876. St Marks Tey Rectory, Colchester (EARLAND)

CHRISTIES: Stencilled mark (On old stretcher) 713 AO Brought to Christies in 1903 by Mr CORDIVENT of Newton Abbot in a group of 21 pictures. Not sold, taken away again.

CHRISTIES : Stencilled on old stretcher : 308 MM. 2 pictures taken for sale to Christies.
28th April 1961 not sold
28th July 1961. Lot 97. Sold to LANGTON for 12 gns. As J. OPIE Portrait of an old man reading a bible.

CHRISTIES 1999 - PRIVATE COLLECTION

LITERATURE: JOHN OPIE AND HIS WORKS. John Jope Rogers (Colnaghi/ Netherton and Worth) 1878. Page 217, 218. Detailed description. According to Rogers, the man is puzzling over a difficult passage in his bible

JOHN OPIE AND HIS CIRCLE. Ada Earland. Hutchinson. 1911 page 350

CONSERVATION: 1999.

CONTEXT:
Probably painted in the autumn of 1781 when Opie, accompanied by Dr John Wolcot, was en route for London, preparing for his launch in fashionable society. By way of experience, Wolcot arranged some portrait sittings for the young artist during a stay at Exeter.

The plan was to display in London a number of character studies including AN OLD JEW (painted in Penzance), A BEGGAR AND HIS DOG, OLD KNEEBONE OF HELSTON, and OLD TREVENEN. The GUARDIAN OF LYDFORD FALLS thus made a perfect subject. Like those, this painting would not have been commissioned by the sitter.

The large size of the work shows Opie’s readiness – and competence- to tackle big canvases.

The relatively busy composition, with the various background details, is more ambitious than his usually plain, dark backgrounds.

The woodland in which the portrait is set does not have the freshness of the outdoors. The trees are probably cut branches and the tree stump on which the second book sits is apparently a table with some simple woodland additions.

It is interesting to speculate as to whether Wolcot origianlly hoped to take the picture on to London as part of the display, into which it would have fitted well.

The stretcher (now replaced) bore an old label from WORTHS ART GALLERY, CATHEDRAL YARD, EXETER. THE OLDEST ART GALLERY IN THE WESTERN SHIRES.
Worths may have had something to do with the framing or indeed the sale of the picture at some time.

The identity of the picture was known when John Jope Rogers wrote that it was in Colchester. That identity was forgotten by subsequent owners When H.J. Cordivent took it with twenty other pictures to Christies in 1903, it was untitled. it retained its attribuition to Opie.

The subject was identified from the detialed descroption in Rogers.

Restoration/ conservation 1999.

LYDFORD FALLS is now the property of the National Trust. They have no records of the guardians of the falls in the past.