The three blind men (Arabian nights)

Sir William Orpen

(1878 - 1931)

The three blind men (Arabian nights)

Black, white and red chalk with wash over pencil
Signed and dated l.l.: Orpen 1901 and inscribed l.r.: The three blind men watched by the thief
34 x 49 cm (13 x 19 in.)

- Robert Dunthorne & Son, London;
- Private collection since 1971

 This drawing dates to a series of early works Orpen made as a recent graduate from the Slade School of Art, London in 1899. At this time, Orpen turned extensively to literature as a source for ideas, such as Heinrich Heine's Florentine Nights, Max Beerbohm's The Happy Hypocrite, Arthur Conan Doyle's The Refugees and Oscar Wilde's The Fisherman and His Soul. For the current work, Orpen has taken the story of 'The Three Blind Men', deceived by a wicked thief, from Arabian Nights, which provided Orpen with many subjects between 1899 and 1904. It is probable he has portrayed himself as the thief, a practice found in his early works when after leaving the Slade access to models and financial freedom was limited. Here, Orpen has created a work charged with drama, achieved through his use of chiaroscuro, bold composition and brilliant drawing technique.