Artist: Charles Oppenheimer

Date of Birth:
1875
Date of Death:
1961
Place of Death:
Kirkcudbright
Residence in Dumfries & Galloway:

Moved in 1908 to 14 High Street, Kirkcudbright, rented from E A Hornel, then to Woodlea, Kirkcudbright, purchased in 1938.

Education:

Manchester School of Art; Italy

Professional Bodies:

ARSA, 1927; RSA, 1934; RSW, 1912

Exhibited At:

Royal Academy; Royal Scottish Academy; RSW; Royal Glasgow Institute of Fine Arts; Aberdeen Artists’ Society; Liverpool

Associates:

W S MacGeorge; friendly with Dorothy L Sayers and Mac Fleming when they lived next door at 14a High Street, rented from Hornel. Helped to found the Dumfries and Galloway Fine Art Society

Bibliography:

Charles Oppenheimer RSA, RSW, F G Mories, The Artist, Volume 33, No 6, August 1947. The Dee from Woodlands (sic), watercolour, 15.5 by 23 inches, illustrated in 25th Annual Galloway Exhibition, Bourne Fine Art at the McGill Duncan Gallery, Exhibition Catalogue 2003. A History of Scottish Art, Bill Smith and Selina Skipwith, Merrell, London, 2003. Kirkcudbright: one hundred years of an artists’ colony, Patrick Bourne, Atelier Books, Edinburgh, 2000. Charles Oppenheimer RSA RSW, 1875- 1961, Exhibition Catalogue, Bourne Fine Art, 1990. The Tolbooth and Old Town, Kirkcudbright and Waterside, Kirkcudbright are illustrated. (In Stewartry Museum file) Paintings and Drawings by Charles Oppenheimer RSW, RSA, Broughton House, 1981, Exhibition Catalogue (Stewartry Museum file). McGill Duncan Exhibition Catalogue, August 2001 shows Loch Kindar, watercolour 171/2 by 23 1/2 in. Tales of the Kirkcudbright Artists, Haig Gordon, Kirkcudbright, 2006.  From Craftsman to Artist by Euan Robson, Atelier Books, 2012

Notes:

Came to Kirkcudbright following chance meeting with E A Taylor in Manchester. Served with Royal Artillery in First World War. An enthusiastic angler and golfer. Had a great regard for the Manchester painter, Frederick William Jackson, who had influenced him as a young man. Designed a number of posters for British Rail, depicting local beauty spots. Designed the badge and motto Sempere Vigilo of the Scottish Police Force. Was a special constable in Kirkcudbright and served on Kirkcudbright Town Council. A well known figure in the artistic community. His portrait of W S MacGeorge is in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. Visited Italy with MacGeorge. His Kirkcudbright in Winter exhibited at Harbour Gallery jubilee, 1982. Illustrations of Garden at Twilight, The Galloway Dam Nearing Completion, The Old Tolbooth and Winter Landscape, Galloway are illustrated in Bourne  (see bibliography) . Galloway Dam Nearing Completion, Bourne p66 and Smith and Skipwith p86 The Linn Pool on the Dee Bourne p67 The Tolbooth, Kirkcudbright Bourne p68 Kirkcudbright Under Snow Bourne p69 Ebb Tide, Kirkcudbright Bourne p95 (see bibliography). His Kirkcudbright Under Snow is in the Royal Scottish Academy Diploma collection. Works can be found in many galleries: Manchester Art Gallery (The Tolbooth) Manchester Whitworth Art Gallery (Granite Quarry) Oldham (The Artist’s Garden) Glasgow (Harnessing the Dee) Southport (Low Tide, Kirkcudbright) Worthing (Early Morning at a Solway Port) Blackpool (Winter Landscape in Galloway).  The Dee from Woodlea, oil on canvas 48 by 60 inches at McGill Duncan December 2004, alongside a smaller version.  Old Brig O’ Dee, sold Christies, Edinburgh, 26/10/2006, sale 7299, lot,61.

His Old Bridge, Gatehouse of Fleet sold for £13,125, Bonhams, Edinburgh, sale 19877, lot 29, 13/12/2012

His Lilies and Reeds of 1893 was on display in the exhibition Five Centuries of Scottish Painting at the Town Hall, Kirkcudbright, 22 July to 28 August 2006.


Charles Oppenheimer, whose mother was Scottish, was born in Manchester in 1875, where his family owned a mosaic manufacturing business.   He was enrolled at the Manchester School of Art where he studied design.  At art school he came under the influence of Walter Crane, a leading teacher, art theorist and member of the Arts and Crafts movement.

Oppenheimer’s first involvement with an artist’s colony was with the painters who visited Runswick Bay in the North East of England but it was an encounter with E. A. Taylor in Manchester which persuaded him that he should move to Kirkcudbright.  Taylor had recently married Jessie M King who had purchased the Green Gate in Kirkcudbright.

Oppenheimer and his wife Connie settled at 14 High Street, next door to E. A. Hornel at Broughton House, before moving in the late thirties to Woodlea the former home of the Kirkcudbright artists William Mouncey and subsequently William Robson. Charles Oppenheimer became a leading member of the local community becoming a member of the Town Council in 1913  and later serving as a special constable.  As well as painting Oppenheimer was  a keen golfer and fisherman, the epitome of the Kirkcudbright artist as depicted by his friend Dorothy L. Sayers, who rented the studio next to the Oppenheimers at 14a High Street.  The description of Water’s studio in The Five Red Herrings is the exact location of Oppenheimer’s own  studio.

Charles Oppenheimer spent over half a century recording the local natural and built environment, including a number of large canvases depicting the construction  of the dams for the Galloway Power scheme in the early nineteen thirties.  His railway posters also brought his work to the attention of the public at large.

Oppenheimer visited Italy and an exhibition of this work in Glasgow in 1913 brought him to the attention of the Scottish art critics.  He exhibited regularly both at the Royal Academy and Royal Scottish Academy, where he became a full member in 1934.  Towards the end of his life Charles Oppenheimer was elected Honorary President of the Harbour Cottage Fund, and fund raising began to save and restore the cottages which were opened as an art gallery in 1957 and which maintained the artistic heritage in the town of Kirkcudbright.

A full account of the life and work of the artist can be found in Charles Oppenheimer from Craftsman to Artist by Euan Robson, Atelier Books, 2012.