John Opie RA was born in Trevellas, Cornwall, son of a carpenter. While still young, his natural genius for painting was recognised by Dr John Wolcot (aka satirist Peter Pindar) who taught him to paint, espeically portraits, which were characterised by honesty and truth to nature. By 1780 Opie was considered ready to take to London where he was launched as an untutored natural genius who had never had a lesson - THE CORNISH WONDER.
He became the talk of London and in the following years painted hundreds of portraits disinguished by the accuracy and vitality of their depictions.
Artists at the time felt that History Painting was the true calling o the artist and Opie followed this principle painting many scenes from history, poetry, the bible and Shakespeare.
He was professor of Painting at the Royal Academy and is buried in St Paul's Cathedral next to Reynolds.
He also painted Fancy pictures, genre subjects, such as the Peasant Family in Tate Britain and the Beggar Boy now in Falmouth Art Gallery.
His work may be seen across the world from the Louvre to the Hermitage, from Budapest to Philadelphia and from the Royall Collection to the Tate and the National Portrait Gallery.