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.