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Sir William Orpen Art Exhibition Launch by Dominic Lee

Sir William Orpen Exhibition Launch by Dominic Lee

Sir William Orpen R.A., R.H.A. 1878-1931

As William Orpen was born in Stillorgan I always felt it would be nice to honour his genius with an exhibition of some of his paintings or to erect a statue of him in the village.
There was no problem finding a location for a statue but funding was the main obstacle.

While everyone thought an exhibition was a great idea, there were two main obstacles, where to house an exhibition that would remain open 7 days a week and again finance was naturally an issue.
In December 2012 Ray Corey, the Manager of Stillorgan Village Shopping Centre ran a competition to rename the Malls and he mentioned to me that my “pal” Orpen was one of the winning entries so I seised the opportunity and purchased some digital files of Orpens paintings from the National Gallery.

I printed Orpen’s works on 100% cotton rag paper to maintain authenticity, mounted and framed them and asked Ray to hang them on the columns between each window on the 1st floor of the newly named Orpen Mall. My plan worked (although a bit of arm twisting was required)  he agreed to fund a total of 25 framed reproductions of Sir William Orpen’s paintings.

I then asked Jimmy Deenihan, T.D. Minister for Art, Heritage and the Gaeltacht to perform the official opening. I have known Jimmy since he featured in my first photography book “Out of Your Tree”  and he immediately accepted my invitation.

The launch was a huge success and was attended by about 70 local business owners including the son of William Orpens chauffeur and two of Orpens relations. Priory Studios also had a loan of an original Orpen painting from a private collector just for the launch.
The exhibition is permanent, it’s open to all during the Shopping Centres business hours and it’s free.

My next project will be to erect a statue of Orpen in Stillorgan and the Stillorgan Chamber of Commerce have kindly agreed to start an Orpen Statue Fund and will accept all donations large or small until this goal is achieved. A raffle at the launch raised €300 and the winner from Donal McNally Opticians received a framed reproduction of an Orpen painting. However, I subsequently received a very generous pledge of €5000 towards the fund, so one minute it did seem like an impossible task and the next minute a piece of cake!


Opening from Dominic Lee on Vimeo.

Photographs taken by William Barr and Vladimir Polivanov. Video by Rob Lee


Please like our new Orpen Facebook Page:

Paula Fitzpatrick - March 5, 2013 - 1:41 pm

Hi Dominic, Mairead, Vladimir and Sonny,

Just a note to congratulate you all on the wonderful diverse work on display.
A culmination of each person’s own distinct talents compliments and
invigorates the work both old and new.

Yours sincerely

Paula Fitzpatrick.

Karen D'Alton - March 6, 2013 - 5:01 pm

Hi Dominic

Really enjoyable evening, thank you for inviting us and hope you are relaxing this evening. Hope you got some money to start the Orpen Statue fund and I think it is a great idea.

I only had a quick look at the photographs this evening, but they are just fantastic, I’ve admired this guy for so long, so for me personally it was just fantastic to see them, I was in the imperial war museum early last year and it was very clinical and was nearly put off him, so thank you for allowing me to appreciate him again.


Peter Plant - March 6, 2013 - 5:05 pm

Thanks for the invitation. Really enjoyable evening and it was obvious that you had put a lot of work into the exhibition.
Peter Plant.

Margaret - March 8, 2013 - 9:47 am

You may have already come across this black and white newsreel footage of Sir William Orpen at work – but just in case you haven’t I enclose the link. The (very) short piece of footage shows him painting delegates at the Versailles treaty negotiations. Watch from about 4 minutes and 5 seconds into the film. If the Versaille piece can be extracted from the longer film perhaps you might find a role for it in your exhibition – if not on a wall, it could look great repeated-over on an ipad. It is pretty amazing to see the speed at which he worked and on multiple portraits simultaneously…. faster than many modern photographers.

Great idea to showcase him in his home place by the way. Congrats.

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