See  a previous blog post on the Sir Michael Smurfit Art sale by Sotheby’s London 9th Sept. 2020 which includes the 1924 version of ‘Orpsie Boy‘: –

William Orpen Self Portraits 1924 and 1926.

Self Portrait – inscribed “‘Orpsie Boy’ – You’re not as young as you were, my lad, Paris 1924.”

Watercolour, Pencil & Black Chalk on Paper: 10 x 9½ inches.

Provenance : Mrs H Toulmin, Monterey.

Sold Christie’s, London, 09/06/1978, Lot: 28.

Taylor Gallery 1989.

Smurfit Art Collection.

Exhibited : Taylor Gallery, London, Irish Art in the Twentieth Century, June – July 1989, Lot 27 (Asking Price £25,000) (Illustrated in Catalogue in colour).

Literature : Bruce Arnold, Orpen, Mirror to an Age, Jonathan Cape, London, 1981, page 413.

 SOLD at Sotheby’s London 2020 for £10,000 Hammer Price Total £12,500.


“From his Slade School days to the close of his life, he [Orpen] cultivated the habit of taking an occasional busman’s holiday from the exacting labour of painting other people, by posing to himself and recording the changes wrought upon his features by the passing of time, sometimes accompanying the portrayal with such laconic written comments as “Orpsie Boy, you’re not as young as you were, my lad, Paris, 1924” or “Older again, Orpsie Boy.” But as though he were afraid of being suspected of vanity, he went out of his way to avoid any assumption of dignity ; and far from usurping the function of the beauty specialist, he revelled in accentuating the ruggedness of his features. He would have had a legitimate grievance, had any of his brother artists ventured to treat him with such brutal frankness.” [The Artist – Frankness of Self-Portraiture, P. G. Konody, page 239];

Bruce Arnold, Orpen, Mirror to an Age, Jonathan Cape, London, 1981, pages 413-415 (Illustrated page 413 in b&w:-

In Paris in 1924, he [Orpen] completed one of his more famous self-portraits. Though only a drawing, ‘Orpsie Boy’, with its warning messages inscribed across the bottom, ‘You’re not as young as you were, my lad’, is a reflective and sobering piece of stock-taking. The thinning hair is smartly brushed; the bow-tie is smugly knotted under the chin; the handkerchief in the breast pocket and the coat and waistcoat are competently suggested. The face is well fleshed, but the lined brow is knotted over frightened eyes. Time seems to be running out.”

Smurfit Art Collection 2001, Smurfit Communications, Dublin, 2001, page 33 (Illustrated in Colour).

Artist’s Studio Book Reference: Page 37: Line 04.

Cara Copland Reference: Page S 03: Number 13 “”Orpsie Boy” Watercolour Drawing, 1924, Oldham Art Gallery, and Page O02: Line 02 “Oldham Art Gallery – “Orpsie Boy”, Watercolour Drawing of Self, 1924, £50”.

In her listings Cara Copland records the work in two places, by type (Self Portraits), and location (Oldham Art Gallery). However no other indication has been found to support that the work was ever owned by Oldham Art Gallery; and further there is a discrepancy between the sale price between the Cara’ two entries, i.e. £30 for ‘Self Portrait’ and £50 for ‘Oldham Art Gallery’. The £30 entry is most likely a clerical error, as Orpen’s account book, upon which Cara Copland’s listings are based, shows the sale price as £50.

Self Portrait: “Older Again ‘Orpsie Boy’ (1926).”

Watercolour on Paper.

Current Location: Private Collection.

Provenance: Lady Walston. 

Provenance: Artist’s Studio Book for 1926: “Self Portrait (R.I.)(drawing)”, sold for £63.

Literature: Rutter, Frank, ‘Orpen’s Self Portraits’, Strand Magazine, Volume 83, Jan-Jun 1932, pages 276-7 and page 269 (Illustrated).

Leicester Galleries, London, December 1931, Drawings by The Late Sir William Orpen, K.C.B., R.A., No. 36. Self-Portrait (Lent by Lady Walston): Extract from a letter from the artist to the late Sir Charles Walston:-

I am delighted that you and Lady Walston liked my little drawing, and I regret very much that the subject is so ugly it has always been a source of annoyance to me. Yet—

 “For Beauty I’m not a Star”

“Others are handsomer by far”

“But my face, I don’t mind it”

“For I am behind it”

“It’s the people in front get the jar!”


Post by Dominic Lee, Orpen Research Project.