‘The Yacht Race’ by Sir William Orpen (Sighting the Boat at Howth, Co. Dublin).

Sotheby’s Auction – Modern British Art, 28th June 2023. Lot 416. Estimate: £90,000 – £130,000 GBP.
Signed ORPEN (lower right). Pencil and watercolour on paper.

Unframed (sheet): 53.5 by 76.5 cm.; 21 by 30 inches. Framed: 73.5 by 93.5 cm.; 29 by 36¾ inches.

UPDATE – failed to reach the £90,000 reserve.

William Orpen’s father Arthur Herbert Orpen (Solicitor and amateur artist) was a keen sailor and often raced from Dun Laoghaire to Howth with the Royal Alfred Yacht Club (founded 1857). This scene depicts William Orpen’s wife, Grace, the man is either Orpen himself or possibly one of his students from the Dublin Metropolital Art School, and Orpen’s daughter Christine (Kit) on the cliffs at Howth, Co. Dublin watching the race or ‘Sighting the Boat’ as it was originally titled. It is very similar to an older drawing by Arthur Herbert Orpen titled ‘Evening’ which shows a man lying on the cliff edge watching a yacht in the bay. So it’s fair to conclude that William Orpen was influenced here by his father’s drawing, along with another of William’s paintings ‘On the Cliff’ (see below).

‘Evening’ by Arthur Herbert Orpen (c.1860’s). Not in Auction.

And this one by A. H. Orpen’s son Sir William Orpen:

‘On The Cliff, Howth’ by Sir William Orpen (1913). Not in auction.

More details on the provenance etc may be found in Sotheby’s catalogue, using this link: –



N.B. ‘The Yacht Race’ was also used in a photogravure B&W limited edition folio of 10 works by William Orpen.

Post by Dominic Lee, Orpen Research Archives.