As a young boy growing up in Cornwall, Opie displayed a natural talent for drawing. He was taken under the wing of the amateur artist and critic Dr John Wolcot (pseudonym Peter Pindar), from whom he learned the rudiments of painting and gained access to engravings after Old Masters, particularly those of Rembrandt’s portraits. Opie developed a subtle understanding of chiaroscuro, which he combined with a robust painting style. This skill was startling, not least because he lacked formal training. Wolcot promoted Opie in London, where he was acclaimed as ‘the Cornish Wonder’, and in 1781 and 1782, he exhibited at the Royal Academy. Opie enjoyed remarkable artistic success, and was once judged by Joshua Reynolds to be ‘like Caravaggio and Velazquez in one’.