• O
  • John Opie

Reference URL

Self-Portrait 1789
Opie painted this self-portrait in 1789 for the print publisher John Boydell. That year, Boydell had opened his ‘Shakespeare Gallery’ in London. It housed paintings he had commissioned to illustrate the works of Shakespeare, which were also to be engraved and published. Opie’s contributions hung alongside paintings by masters such as Reynolds, Romney and Kaufmann. Just two years before the gallery opened, Opie had been elected Academician of the Royal Academy. He was approaching the zenith of his career, proving himself equally capable as a portraitist and history painter. This picture, painted in his typically realistic portrait style, projects his artistic success and confidence. Opie stares at the spectator, forcefully clutching the tools of his profession and fame.

Glossary Open


The printmaking technique in which an image is inscribed on a copper plate with a tool that cuts a groove in the surface. This groove holds the ink that creates the print when it is applied to paper. Also refers to the method of making an incision on a material such as glass.

History painting

Paintings in which the subject is taken from biblical, classical or other mythological histories.

Royal Academy

An independent institution founded in 1768 with Sir Joshua Reynolds as its first president. It is governed by the Royal Academicians - leading painters, sculptors, printmakers and architects, which number no more than 80 at one time. It organises exhibitions at its London galleries, including an annual Summer Exhibition.

Engraving, History painting, Royal Academy


  • Acc. No. NG 911
  • Medium Oil on canvas
  • Size Oval: 70.00 x 59.50 cm
  • Credit Bequest of Patrick Shaw 1903