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Museum brings home portrait to Cornish artist’s village

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: March 04, 2014

By Simon Parker Living Cornwall Editor @simonparkerwmn

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Clare Murton and Ann Oxley unpack Joanna’s portrait

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A poignant portrait of a young woman is to go on show in Cornwall for the first time since it was painted in 1831.

The oil painting of Joanna Opie was created by her elder brother Edward – who went on to become a member of the Royal Academy – just a year before her death from cholera.

It has now been acquired by St Agnes Museum, thanks to grants from the Art Fund, V&A Purchase Fund and with the help of private donations funds from museum members.

“Everyone at St Agnes Museum is overjoyed that a tender and informal portrait of 12 year old Joanna Opie by her elder brother Edward, painted in 1831 when he was just 21, has been purchased for the Museum’s collection, thanks to generous grants from the Art Fund and the V&A Purchase Fund, and with the help of privately donated funds from Museum members. It was collected from rural Monmouthshire by curator Clare Murton and former curator Ann Oxley.

When the portrait was painted, the Opie family was living comfortably in Churchtown in the heart of St Agnes, where Edward and Joanna’s father, also named Edward, was a shopkeeper. Edward’s uncle, John Opie, was a celebrated artist known as the Cornish Wonder.

St Agnes Museum Trust chairman Roger Radcliffe said: “The discovery of a full colour image from the time before photography is always fascinating, especially when it relates to St Agnes. Such an occurrence is also very rare.

“The discovery of Edward Opie’s painting of Joanna was, of course, doubly important to us because of its connection with the Opie family, but in this case I think the object is a thing of beauty in its own right.

“It is a fantastic addition to our collection and we are so lucky to have such tremendous support from the grant aiding bodies and local benefactors. Well done to everyone who made this happen.”

St Agnes Museum also owns a number of other paintings and artefacts associated with the Opie family. The public will get their first chance to see the portrait when the museum reopens on Good Friday. It opens daily from 10.30am to 5pm and admission is free.

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