Group associated with the New English Art Club

1 portrait of Philip Wilson Steer

Group associated with the New English Art Club, by Sir William Orpen, circa 1904 - NPG 6345 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Group associated with the New English Art Club

by Sir William Orpen
pencil, black chalk (or charcoal), pen, ink and watercolour, circa 1904
8 7/8 in. x 16 3/8 in. (225 mm x 415 mm) paper size
Purchased, 1995
Primary Collection
NPG 6345


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Artistback to top

  • Sir William Orpen (1878-1931), Painter, Royal Acadamian. Artist associated with 29 portraits, Sitter in 28 portraits.

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This portraitback to top

The New English Art Club was an exhibiting society founded in 1886 by a group of artists sympathetic to the French avant garde and as an alternative exhibition venue to the more conservative Royal Academy. Although its importance had diminished by the end of the first decade of the twentieth century, the NEAC played a crucial role in British art for over twenty years. Born in Ireland, Orpen came to London in 1897 to study at the Slade School of Fine Art whose staff dominated the NEAC.
He himself first exhibited at the NEAC in 1899 and in the following years became one of its most prominent members. Probably executed several decades later, Orpen's superb drawing is apparently a satire on the most influential artists, teachers and critics of his early years or, more generally, on the French influence on British art as taught at the Slade and exhibited at the NEAC. Alphonse Legros, Slade Professor of Fine Art from 1875 to 1892, is seen with the sculptor Rodin leading members of the English avant garde along a windy cliff top.

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Events of 1904back to top

Current affairs

Britain and France sign the Entente Cordiale, an agreement which resolves a number of longstanding colonial disputes (including a Declaration respecting Egypt and Morocco), signalling growing anxiety about the risk of future German aggression. Although not militarily binding, the agreement, negotiated between French foreign minister Théophile Delcassé, and Lord Lansdowne, the British Foreign Secretary, establishes a diplomatic understanding between the two countries.

Art and science

J. M. Barrie's Peter Pan is first performed at the Duke of York's Theatre in London. Charting the fantastical adventures of Peter, 'the boy who never grew up', the Darling children and the villainous Captain Hook in Neverland, many adaptations have been made of the story. The painter Gwen John settles in Paris, where she becomes the lover and model of the sculptor Auguste Rodin, modelling for his sculpture Muse.

International

Japan attacks the Russian Navy at Port Arthur, sparking the Russo-Japanese war. Hostility was prompted by the rival imperialist ambitions of the Russian and Japanese empires in Manchuria, North East China, and Korea, considered by Japan to be an essential buffer against colonisation by Western Powers. Japan wins a series of victories against Russia which transforms the balance of power in East Asia, and undermines the Tsar's rule in Russia.

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