view single item

Photo credit: Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University

IMPORTANT: Images displayed via this interface may NOT be reproduced without the express permission of the artist or the artist's representative. Please contact the Johnson Museum with any questions regarding image rights and reproduction.

Title: Study of a figure for the mural The Holy Well
Medium: Charcoal on wove paper
Dimensions: Image/Sheet: 13 3/4 × 17 1/2 inches (34.9 × 44.5 cm)
Credit Line: Gift of Charles Baskerville, Class of 1919
Object Number: 95.027.008
Label Text: This drawing is for the kneeling figure seen at the bottom center of Orpen’s 1916 opus The Holy Well, a satirical depiction of religious sites dedicated to saints and visited by those praying for miracles. The “saint” in this case is, in fact, Orpen’s studio assistant, Seán Keating. Penitents are shown in various stages of undress as they approach him in a scene intended to shock. It is a disturbing riff on what was then a romantic view of Irish peasants and their piety popular among writers and artists of the time.

Orpen made numerous preparatory drawings for this work, all very detailed and carefully considered. The half-naked figure, in the pose of a supplicant, is drawn with touching realism. If the scene weren’t quite so absurd, it could be mistaken as being based on a real memory. (“Drawing the Line: 150 Years of European Artists on Paper," curated by Nancy E. Green and presented at the Johnson Museum January 20–June 10, 2018)

NOTE: This electronic record is compiled from historic documentation which may not reflect the Johnson Museum's complete or current knowledge of the object. Review and refinement of such records is ongoing.