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Opie's innate sympathy for his subject, his unpretentious style and his early experience painting vagrants and country people in Cornwall raised this work far above the level of most of his contemporaries. Opie cleverly depicts the viewer's shadow partially cast over the sitter, creating an illusion of intimacy.
This picture shows why his reputation became so high in the 1780s, and adds weight to J. W. Scobell Armstrong's view that 'none of his maturer works as a portrait painter surpassed the best of his achievements during those years'.
Many experts consider this to be one of Opie's finest paintings.
The Beggar Boy
oil on canvas
H 91.3 x W 71.2 cm
purchased with the assistance of the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council/Victoria and Albert Museum Purchase Grant Fund, the National Art Collections Fund, the Beecroft Bequest, Cornwall Heritage Trust and the Canterbury Auction Galleries, 2004