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Picture of William Orpen, an Outsider in France

William Orpen, an Outsider in France

Painting and Writing World War One

Author(s): Caroline Gallois
Subject: Fine Arts

Book Description

William Orpen (1878-1931) was in 1917 appointed as an official war artist in France. He not only saw the Great War as a call to paint serious subject-matter—enabling him to break away from the constraints of society portraiture in London—but also as an opportunity to write. Orpen was commissioned, along with artists such as Paul Nash, Stanley Spencer and Wyndham Lewis, to paint for the Department of Information. He was the only war artist to keep a written record of his wartime experience, published in 1921 as An Onlooker in France. In his Preface, Orpen rather too modestly states: “This book must not be considered as a serious work on life in France behind the lines, it is merely an attempt to record some certain little incidents that occurred in my own life there.” This art-historical study is a companion to this “attempt”. It examines, within the context of the global crisis that WWI was, and from various theoretical, philosophical and literary angles, his singular and at times provocative work. Orpen set out to provide a textual and visual record of life on the Western Front, as well as behind the lines—of what was supposed to be the “War to End all Wars”. For want of being a “fighting man”, the non-combatant artist-writer determined to fight with his own arms, his pens and brushes.


ISBN-13: 978-1-5275-0834-7
ISBN-10: 1-5275-0834-X
Date of Publication: 01/05/2018
Pages / Size: 229 / A5
Price: £61.99


Caroline Gallois holds the agrégation post-graduate high-level teaching diploma and obtained her Master’s diploma on the London-based Irish painter and writer William Orpen in 2017. She is currently researching, at PhD level, visual and textual representations of place, location and displacement in Orpen’s œuvre within the context of Modernist art and thought.