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Sir David Wilkie (1785–1841)

Photo credit: Royal Institution of Cornwall

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John Opie is considered to be the first Cornish artist of any significance and certainly the first Cornish portraitist of renown. He was the son of a St Agnes carpenter whose portrait he painted when aged only eleven. On leaving school, he was apprenticed first to his father and then to the local saw-pit. While he was there, he was discovered by Dr Wolcott, a Truro physician who was also a satirical poet writing under the name of Peter Pindar and an amateur artist who had been a pupil under Richard Wilson. Dr Wolcott bought him out of his apprenticeship and with the doctor he began a career as a travelling portrait-painter. At 14 he painted his first recorded self portrait. In 1781, Opie and the doctor moved to London where they attracted sitters from the lower end of society, whose sole reason for wishing a portrait done by Opie was for its novelty.

Royal Cornwall Museum



Sir David Wilkie (1785–1841)




oil on canvas


H 76 x W 63.5 cm

Accession number

TRURI : 1931.49

Acquisition method

gift, 1931

Work type


Royal Cornwall Museum

River Street, Truro, Cornwall TR1 2SJ England

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