Brithish curator and drawings collector; scholar of Raphael and Botticelli, later British artists. Oppé was the son of Siegmund Armin Oppé, a silk merchant, and Pauline Jaffé (Oppé). He attended St. Andrews University and then New College, Oxford, where he majored in classics. After graduation, he was appointed a professor's assistant in Greek in 1902 at St. Andrews, advancing to lecturer in 1904 and Lecturer in ancient history at Edinburgh University. In 1904 he began collecting drawings, beginning with the work of John Sell Cotman sold to him by the art historian Herbert P. Horne. The collection grew after his marriage into a vast works-on-paper collection which included Fra Bartolommeo, Giovanni da Udine, Barocci, Veronese, Poussin, and Claude Lorrain. He joined the Board (Department) of Education in 1905 where he worked on teacher training standards. In 1906 he briefly joined the Victoria and Albert Museum for one year. He married Lyonetta Edith Regina Valentine Tollemache (1886/7-1951) in 1909. The same year he published his first monograph on a Renaissance artist, Raphael. Oppé returned as deputy director of the V&A in 1910. During his years as deputy director (through 1913), A second monography, on Botticelli, appeared in 1911. He returned to the Board of Education in 1913 and, except for service in World War I in the Ministry of Munitions, never left. Oppé' grew to a great scholar of Cozens. His 1919 Burlington Magazine article disproved the long-standing legend that the artist was the son of Peter the Great. In 1923 he published two books, one on Rowlandson and another on Cotman. The following year he co-published with the great native song collector Cecil Sharp (1859-1924) a history of folk dancing. In 1925, Turner, Cox and de Wint appeared. He began advising the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa on prints and drawings acquisitions in 1937. Oppé retired from the Board of Education in 1938. His book on Hogarth was published in 1948 and English Drawings at Windsor Castle in 1950. His magnum opus on Cozens finally appeared until 1952 as Alexander and John Robert Cozens. He died in Chelsea, London. His collection of 3000 British works on paper was acquired by Tate Gallery in 1996.
Oppé led the study of British drawings as a scholarly pursuit. He was one of a few early collectors in England of works on paper whose number during the first quarter of the twentieth century, others among whom included Laurence Binyon, Randall Davis (1866-1946) and Thomas Girtin (1874-1961). As an art historian, Oppé ventured independent conclusions, doubting, for example, the that Raphael's painting "La Fornarina" is a portrait of his (supposed) mistress, Margharita Luti.
- Paul Oppé Archive, Paul Mellon Centre. http://calmview.co.uk/PaulMellonCentre/CalmView/record.aspx?src=CalmView.Catalog&id=APO, APO.