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Opie
Opie
232

better equipped than himself. Moreover, though the fashionable world ceased to throng his studio, he had still plenty of employment as a portrait-painter, and his reputation in the profession increased. In 1786 he sent seven pictures to the academy, including five portraits and two subject-pictures, 'A Sleeping Nymph—Cupid stealing a Kiss' and James I of Scotland assassinated by Graham at the instigation of his Uncle, the Duke of Athol.' In 1787 he sent 'The Assassination of David Rizzio,' which produced a powerful impression, with the result that Opie was elected an associate, and in the following spring a full member, of the Royal Academy. The two pictures of assassinations were purchased by Alderman Boydell, and were presented by him to the city of London. They are now hung in the City Gallery at Guildhall.

For the next seven years he only exhibited portraits at the Royal Academy, but he was largely employed in painting pictures for the important illustrated works of the day. For Boydell's 'Shakespeare' (1786-9) he painted 'Arthur supplicating Hubert,' 'Juliet on her Bed surrounded by the Capulets,' 'Antigonus sworn to destroy Perdita,' and four others. He also painted three pictures for Macklin's 'Poets,' four for Macklin's Bible, and eleven for Robert Bowyer's edition of Hume's 'History of England.' Of these works the most celebrated were 'Jephtha's Vow' (1793), 'The Presentation in the Temple' (1791), 'Mary of Modena quitting England' (now in the town-hall at JDevonport), and 'Elizabeth Grey petitioning Edward IV,' painted in 1798.

Meanwhile he had married again, and this time his choice was very fortunate. It was at an evening party at Norwich that he first met Amelia Alderson, the daughter of a doctor of that town, and cousin of Baron Alderson [see Opie, Amelia, and Alderson, Sir Edward Hall]. He fell in love at first sight. They were married at Marylebone Church on 8 May 1798, and lived till his death at 8 Berners Street, whither he had moved in 1791. They were thoroughly suited to each other; she appreciated his genius and character. A grace was afterwards observed in his works, especially his female portraits, which they had lacked before. At first fortune did not seem to favour them, and there was a short period at the end of 1801 and the beginning of 1802 when he was wholly without employment; Mrs. Opie considered these 'three alarming months' as the severest trial in her married life. Then a 'torrent of business' came, and never ceased to flow till the day of his death.

In 1800 Opie addressed a letter to the editor of the 'True Briton' on the proposal for erecting a public memorial of the naval glory of Great Britain; and in 1802 Opie and his wife went to Paris and saw the wonderful collection of pictures which Napoleon had looted from all the galleries of Europe. In 1805 he was elected professor of painting to the Royal Academy. He had been a candidate for the appointment in 1799, when Barry was elected, but withdrew in favour of Fuseli. Opie refused to avail himself of the grace of three years allowed to the professor for the preparation of his lectures, and commenced their delivery in February 1807. He had previously delivered some lectures on art at the Royal Institution, which had been well received in spite of some want of method and abruptness. He now threw his whole mind into his task, and embodied the result of years of sincere thought in four lectures on (1) design, (2) invention, (3) chiaro scuro, and (4) colouring. With the exception of those of Sir Joshua Reynolds, no series of lectures emanating from the Royal Academy are better worth reading. Their views are original and just, and they contain much excellent criticism in language which is clear and vigorous. They are permanent contributions to critical literature.

The anxiety and labour spent in the composition of these lectures are supposed to nave hastened his death. He was busily engaged at the same time on his paintings, and 'laboured so intently the latter end of 1806 and the beginning of 1807 that he allowed his mind no rest, hardly indulging in the relaxation of a walk.' A disease of the spinal marrow, affecting his brain, ensued, and he strove in vain to finish his works for the academy exhibition. His pupil, Henry Thomson [q. v.] (afterwards R.A.), volunteered to work on one of them—a portrait of the Duke of Gloucester—and Opie was able in one of his lucid intervals to give a direction, and to express satisfaction when it was carried out.

He died on 9 April 1807, and was buried, with some pomp, in St. Paul's Cathedral.

In the National Portrait Gallery are portraits by Opie of himself, Bartolozzi, and Thomas Holcroft. Another portrait of Opie by himself is in the Dulwich Gallery. In the National Gallery are portraits of William Siddons, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, and the 'Head of a Young Man.' A picture of 'Troilus, Cressida, and Pandarus' is in the Manchester Gallery, on loan from the National Gallery. In the diploma gallery of the Royal Academy is his 'Old Man and Child,' and at the Garrick Club a group from 'The Gamester,' with Stukeley and other actors. At