An illustrated letter by William Orpen to his wife Grace.

The letter includes a drawing of William’s uncle – Bishop Raymond d’Audemar Stack Orpen – Bishop of Limerick and Ardfort and Aghadoe, so he was clearly working on ‘Uncle Raymond’s painting at the same time as the painting of ‘Gardenia on a Donkey‘. He states – “a certain family likeness” and in fact it could be his own self portrait which he portrays.

“My Dearest wife, I think there is a certain family likeness here. Had a fair morning yesterday at Clonsilla* but I found it very difficult to work from nature at a painting I am doing from a drawing. However I saw a few facts that I never would have got from the drawing. I was prowling about Dublin on Saturday before going to the 6.30 and went into Butlers and bought a chandelier for the studio – it will be too big in the house, I got it because I knew I could sell it for more £18.10.0 its about 4 ft deep and might to look. I placed it in the centre of the studio (Cont. below).

Uncle Raymond’s portrait has taken a turn for the better – his sitting is so exceptionally good that he deserves to get something decent – Marchant wrote to me about 4 days ago saying a picture of mine of the Wash House* (the one of Lottie standing up that Girling gave me £20 for about 4 years ago I imagine) was up for sale at Christie’s last Saturday. I told him to bid for me up to £60 so that my market should not be beaten – However it fetched 100 guineas which is good and I’m pleased – I enclose you a cheque for the amount you asked – Hope you got the £10 safely. Glad Bunny liked her party and I’m going to miss the doing up of the puddings. Much love to you Your loving husband Billion.”

Raymond d’Audemar Orpen (1837 – 1930) Bishop of Limerick, Ardfert and Aghadoe by his nephew Sir William Orpen.


Clonsilla – Orpen is probably referring to his painting – ‘Gardenia on a Donkey’ (1910).

Gardenia is the daughter of Evelyn St George whom he painted at Clonsilla.


The Lottie picture Orpen refers to in the letter sold at Christie’s 17/12/1910 was “At the Wash Tub” which dates the letter to between 21st and 24th December 1910.

“The Rest” by William Orpen (National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa).

The Rt Rev Raymond Orpen also makes an appearance in the following two blog posts: –



Post by Dominic Lee, Orpen Research Project