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Orpen at War, by Patricia O'Reilly

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This illustrated biographical novel – featuring dozens of Orpen’s paintings and drawings – depicts one artist’s remarkable personal and creative journey.

'... beautifully produced ... a marvellously elegant feat of storytelling.' -- Anne Cunningham, The Sunday Independent

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Beautifully written and expertly researched, Orpen at War paints a uniquely intimate story of the Great War as seen through the eyes of its official artist A wonderful achievement.Hazel Gaynor, author of The Lighthouse Keepers Daughter

Gripping from the start.... Beautifully realised and a real pleasure to read Eibhear Walshe, author of The Last Days at Bowencs Court

During World War I, Major William Orpen, a highly successful commercial painter in Ireland and the UK, takes up a posting as official British war artist. Full of high hopes he sets off to the front with a Rolls-Royce and a driver.

But nothing in his privileged life prepared him for the horrors he encounters. Based in Amiens, he is initially unable to capture on canvas the sights that haunt him, but eventually his inspired output becomes prolific Tommies in rat-infested, water-sodden trenches; men charging across the tortured earth with fixed bayonets; generals in luxurious quarters; nurses ministering gently to the wounded in the hell-hole hospitals.

Commissioned to paint the Paris Peace Conference he settles in Paris with Yvonne, his model and muse. His epic, To the Unknown British Soldier in France, is hailed by some as symbolic but by others as a blasphemous disgrace.

Disheartened at the ending of the war, he is consumed by its futility and what he sees as the fighting mens betrayal by the politicians. At war with himself, he divides his time between Paris and London but suffers from depression and ill health. Alienated from his family, he dies in 1931 of alcohol-related complications.

This illustrated biographical novel featuring dozens of Orpens paintings and drawings will enthral anyone interested in the brutal reality of World War I, and help us to appreciate one artists remarkable personal and creative journey.

About the Author

Patricia OReilly writes fiction and non-fiction, and teaches writing in University College Dublin, the Irish Writers Centre and elsewhere. She lives in Dublin.

More Information
Author O'Reilly, Patricia
Print Format Paperback
ISBN-13 9781739789237
Illustrations 45 colour plates
Date of Publication September 24, 2022
Number of Pages 288
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