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The Children of William Grant

John Opie, R.A.

The Children of William Grant

18th Century

Oil on Canvas


John Opie was an 18th century English provincial painter from Cornwall with limited formal training. His style was greatly influenced by Rembrandt, whose work Opie studied extensively. As a result, Opie successfully attempted both chiaroscuro and impasto painting in Rembrandt’s style in his work, offering an unexpected maturity for an untutored artist and earning Opie the title “the Cornish Wonder”. Early in his career, Opie achieved limited fame as a portraitist, producing a number of group portraits like The Children of William Grant, but later achieved greater success as a history painter. His work is marked by a continued use of theatrical, chiaroscuro lighting and thickly applied impasto paint. Opie also used bitumen, a form of crude oil, in many of his paintings, causing them to deteriorate faster than his contemporaries. 

Condition of the Artwork (2009): 

There is fine, small to medium scale, very slightly cupped, age cracking overall. Ultra violet light reveals careful inpainting above and below some of the varnish layers. Inpainting is visible along stretcher bar creases and in small strokes around the mouth of the girl at left. Careful examination under normal light reveals abrasion around the mouth of the girl at left. Multiple layers of natural resin have been applied to the paint layer. Brown residues of discolored natural resin are visible in paint stroke and canvas weave interstices. Examination under ultra violet light reveals a strong, even green glow overall; because of the abrasions mentioned above, the painting must have been at least partially cleaned in the past, but this does not show under UV examination. 

Conservation Treatment Proposed:

  • Remove reduce discolored natural resin with the appropriate cleaning agents, if possible. Paintings from this period are often very sensitive to cleaning agents and cannot be thoroughly cleaned of varnish.
  • Remove/reduce old inpainting with the appropriate cleaning agents, if possible.
  • Apply an isolating layer of a conservation quality varnish overall.
  • Fill and inpaint paint losses and abrasions with conservation quality materials.
  • Apply a conservation quality finish varnish overall.
  • All materials used will be appropriate and conservation quality. All work will adhere to the highest standards of the field.

Estimated Cost of Treatment:   $6,500.00