Oppé, Paul


Collection date:

Area: London

(Adolphus) Paul Oppé (1878-1957): Always known as Paul, he was born at 157 Camberwell Grove, South London on 22/9/1878, the 5th of 8 children of Siegmund Armin Oppé, a silk merchant and his wife Pauline (née Jaffé). His parents were both born in Germany and became naturalised British subjects in May 1886. Paul went to St Andrews University then New College Oxford, studying classics. In 1904 he was a Lecturer in Greek at St Andrews, then in Ancient History at Edinburgh University. He joined the Board of Education in London in 1905 where he worked on teacher training standards. Sharp probably met him in that capacity and was certainly corresponding with him in friendly terms by 1911 (type CJS1/12/15/2/1 into vwml search box). 

Paul Oppé became a great art scholar, building his own collection of 3,000 drawings and watercolours (now in the Tate Gallery). He was Deputy Director of the Victoria and Albert Museum (1910-13), returning to the Board of Education for the rest of his career. He corresponded regularly with Sharp after World War One and they agreed to co-author a book on the history of European dancing.

Sharp had painstakingly deciphered John Playford’s ‘The English Dancing Master’ (1651) and re-presented its many dances in his ‘Country Dance Book Part II’ (Novello 1911). During his recuperative stay in Montreux in October 1923, he embarked on his own translation of Thoinot Arbeau’s book ‘Orchésographie’ (first published in 1589), which unlocked for him many continental dances.

Through his connections to the art world, Oppé could supply the illustrations to match Sharp’s text in the new book. There was some disagreement between the two men in their philosophy of art and their historical perspective. Oppé submitted comments and criticisms of early draft texts and Sharp had made changes. Although the book was still only in draft form, Oppé felt able to publish the book in their joint names soon after Sharp’s death (‘The Dance’ Halton & Truscott Smith 1924).

Paul Oppé married Lyonetta Edith Regina Valentine Tollemache (known as Valentine) on 23/2/1909 at St George’s Esher. They had 2 children Armide (1910-1995) and Denys (1913-1992). He died on 29/3/1957 at 17 Cheyne Walk, Chelsea.

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