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Campaign to purchase portrait of Amelia Opie for Norwich Castle

PUBLISHED: 14:10 20 April 2017 | UPDATED: 09:28 21 April 2017

The double portrait of Amelia Opie by John Opie, which writer Ann Farrant is trying to raise funds to buy for Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery. Photo: Lander Gallery, Truro.

The double portrait of Amelia Opie by John Opie, which writer Ann Farrant is trying to raise funds to buy for Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery. Photo: Lander Gallery, Truro.

Lander Gallery, Truro

She was a novelist and a dedicated campaigner for the underprivileged and anti-slavery, and now a campaign has been launched to buy a portrait of Norwich-born Amelia Opie to display in Norwich Castle.

Self portrait of John Opie. Photo: Lander Gallery, Truro.Self portrait of John Opie. Photo: Lander Gallery, Truro.

The fundraiser is being led by Ann Farrant, author of the book Amelia Opie: The Quaker Celebrity, who previously helped the castle secure a marble bust of the writer. The painting - for which £10,500 needs to be raised - is a double portrait of the author and was painted in about 1799 by her husband, John Opie, who was a Royal Academician and well known painter in his own right.

Ms Farrant said: “I believe the museum should own this exceptional painting of one of its most celebrated citizens, not just because of who she was, but also because of the artist himself. Both the National Portrait Gallery and Tate Britain own Opie portraits and his work can be seen in other galleries and libraries both in the UK and abroad.”

Dr Francesca Vanke, keeper of art and curator of decorative art at Norwich Castle, said: “It’s a lovely portrait and it’s very unusual the fact that it is two views of the same person. Obviously Amelia Opie is an important woman in Norwich’s history. She was a writer and an abolitionist, and she divided her time between Norwich and London, but she was born here and she died here. She is an important person for us to represent in the collection.”

Norwich Castle already has several portraits by Mr Opie, including one of John Crome, one of the founders of the Norwich School of Artists.

Ann Farrant, author of a new biography of Amelia Opie, close to where her house was on the junction of Castle Meadow and Opie Street, Norwich. Photo : Steve AdamsAnn Farrant, author of a new biography of Amelia Opie, close to where her house was on the junction of Castle Meadow and Opie Street, Norwich. Photo : Steve Adams

When Mr Opie, from Cornwall, married Amelia Alderson in 1798, he was already one of the leading portraitists of the day. He painted nine portraits of his wife, with the best known one now at the National Portrait Gallery in London.

The portrait the campaign hopes to secure for the castle is thought to be worth about £15,000, but Ms Farrant said the seller, an Opie enthusiast in Cornwall, has offered to sell it to the campaign for £10,500.

Anybody wanting to make a donation should send a cheque - made payable to The Friends of the Norwich Museums and with a covering note indicating it is for the Amelia Opie portrait - to The Treasurer, The Friends of the Norwich Museums, c/o The Shirehall, Market Avenue. Norwich, NR1 2JQ.

For details of how you can also donate funds via electronic transfer, call the The Friends of the Norwich Museums on 01508 578353.

The bust of Amelia Opie in white marble by the French sculptor and medallist David d’Angers.
The bust is on display at Norwich Castle.
Image: Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery/Norfolk Museums Service.
The bust of Amelia Opie in white marble by the French sculptor and medallist David d’Angers. The bust is on display at Norwich Castle. Image: Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery/Norfolk Museums Service.

ABOUT AMELIA OPIE

Born in 1769, Amelia Opie was the only daughter of Norwich doctor James Alderson and his wife Amelia.

She went on to become a poet and best-selling novelist, much in demand in the highest social circles, as well as a committed campaigner for the underprivileged and anti-slavery. She was wife to well-known painter John Opie and later in life became a Quaker.

An etching by Mrs Dawson Turner in 1822 of Amelia Opie, from John Opie’s 1798 portrait of his wife.
Image: Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery/Norfolk Museums Service.An etching by Mrs Dawson Turner in 1822 of Amelia Opie, from John Opie’s 1798 portrait of his wife. Image: Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery/Norfolk Museums Service.

Among her books were Dangers of Coquetry (published anonymously in 1790), The Father and Daughter (1801), Adeline Mowbray (1804), Simple Tales (1806), Temper (1812), First Chapter of Accidents (1813) and Tales of Real Life (1813).

Opie Street, between Castle Street and London Street, is named in her honour. She lived in the area when she returned to her home city from London after the death of her husband in 1807. She died in 1853 and today a statue of Amelia Opie can be found on Opie Street.

For more, visit www.amelia-opie.co.uk

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