Cork Art History (1840-1850)
A Chronological History of Art and Architecture in 19th. Century Cork, incorporating a history of The Crawford Art Gallery and The Crawford School of Art.
In August 1840, John Hogan visited Cork, where his recently completed Monument to Bishop Doyle was on exhibition. This monument, commissioned for Carlow cathedral, had been exhibited the previous year in Rome, to considerable acclaim. It depicted Dr. Doyle (who died in 1834) standing in his robes beside a kneeling allegorical figure of Ireland, her arm resting on a harp. The statue, one of Hogan's most successful works, had attracted the attention of several writers, and one "R. S." was particularly impressed:
Like the ancient Greek sculptors, Hogan has composed his figures for any situation, and where they placed in the centre of a temple from whatever quarter they were viewed they would command admiration from the beauty of the grouping, and the finish of the work. . . Gold is made an ornamental use of on the drapery of Erin; and the Bishop's cross, with its chain, are represented also as actually of gold. For this, Hogan has the undoubted classical authority of Greek Sculpture, in its best period. . . [Cork Constitution, August 13th 1840, p. 2, col. 7]
Hogan's difficulties in receiving payment for this work were also common knowledge and reported openly in the press at this time. According to an early biographer of Hogan's, Sarah Atkinson (co-incidentally the daughter of G. M. W. Atkinson who also appears in this chronology), six years after the sculpture was completed, Hogan was still owed £450 by the group who had commissioned the work. [Turpin, p. 130]
Strickland records an artist named Frith working in Cork and Limerick around 1840. Frith, probably from Scotland, specialised in silhouette portraits and caricatures. [W. G. Strickland, Vol. I, p. 385]
On 23rd December 1840, Thomas Hovenden was born at Dunmanway, Co. Cork. Hovenden, the son of the town gaoler, became an orphan at the age of 6 and was put into the Cork Orphanage. He was later apprenticed to Mr. Tolerton, a carver and gilder in Cork, who paid for him to attend the Cork School of Art. In 1863 Hovenden went to America, where he pursued a successful career as a painter. [W. G. Strickland, Vol. I, p. 528]
Amongst the drawings by Daniel MacDonald which Strickland records as being in the British Museum is a sketch entitled The Cork Watchman, signed by the artist and dated December 31st, 1840. [W. G. Strickland, Vol. II, p. 57]
In 1841, the artist James Mahoney, who had been born in Cork in 1810, returned
to Ireland after a number of years studying in Rome and travelling on the continent.
Strickland records him living at the house of his parents, 41 Nile Street,
at this time. [W. G. Strickland, Vol. II, p. 88; Crookshank and Glin give his
dates as 1800-1879] Mahoney came back to his native city brimming with energy
and new ideas, and immediately commenced organising a Cork Art Union. The concept
of the Art Union, where outstanding works of art from an annual exhibition
were purchased by a panel of experts and distributed by lot amongst the subscribers,
had already been put into operation in London and in other British cities.
There was an Art Union in Dublin which had been founded two years previously,
and one in Belfast.
James Mahoney joined with Samuel Skillen (c. 1819-1847) in setting up the Cork Art Union. Each member of the Union paid an annual subscription of one pound, This gave the subscriber (and up to three friends) free admission to the exhibition, as well as participation in a lottery of paintings. In the first year of the Art Union's operation in Cork, it was reckoned that more than £100 would be spent on the purchase of paintings, to be distributed to the subscribers by lottery. [Footnote: Cork Examiner, Nov.10, 1841]
The first Cork Art Union
Exhibition was held in September 1841 at Marsh's Rooms on the South Mall,
and was reviewed
in the Cork Examiner on September
26. According to reports in the Cork Constitution, however, the exhibition
did not open until 8th November, and apart from the difficulty of seeing the
works because of the gloomy light, the writer in the Constitution complained
that attendances had suffered due to the bad weather. [Cork Constitution, Nov.
27th, 1841, p. 2, col. 4] The Examiner writer lamented the absence of the severer
schools of painting, such as the 'the historic, the scriptural, the classical
and the romantic', but partially blamed this on the fact that Cork was singularly
destitute of masterpieces, as well as the sculpture casts "being now excluded
from the public gaze in a dark, cold, and musty garret of the Cork Institution." After
the customary ruminations on the usefulness of the arts in raising men above
'low, and base, and degrading pursuits', the correspondent detailed some of
the works on show. Three paintings by Jane MacDonald, 'a clever young artist'
were praised. They were: Dead Game, 'a decided gem', The Dinner at Justice
Shallow's, and Terriers. (It is almost certain that these were in fact by Daniel
MacDonald: the second work is certainly listed as being by him in Stewart's
Index of RHA Exhibitors.) The journalist's confusion is understandable: Jane
MacDonald (b. 1823) was the sister of Daniel MacDonald (1821-1853); both lived
with their parents at 75 Grand Parade, where their father James MacDonald (originally
McDaniel, c. 1789-1865) also practiced as an artist. [A. Stewart, Vol. II,
p. 219; Stewart incorrectly indicates that Daniel MacDonald and James McDaniel
were one and the same artist. Strickland, Vol. II, p. 57 says the family lived
in Patrick Street.]
The watercolour artist William Roe, who had trained in Dublin and London and had settled in Cork in 1835, showed a genre scene, Irish Peasant Girls , as well as a portrait of F. Hodder. Roe was to exhibit the first of these paintings under the title Kerry Peasantry the following year at the RHA, giving his address, unhelpfully, as 12 New George's Street, West Cork. He also showed a work at the Academy, entitled A blind girl knitting on the mountain road to Loch Ine. [A. Stewart, Vol. III, p 115] Around this time, Roe produced many pencil drawings of Cork and its environs. ["William Roe: Views of Cork and its Environs 1837-1839" The Capuchin Annual, pp. 158-170, 1941; Robert Day: "Sketches of Cork in 1838, by William Roe" JCHAS Ser. 2, Vol. VIII, pp. 150-4, 1902]
George Mounsey Wheatley Atkinson had no less than five paintings in the exhibition, all representing, the Examiner reported,
different views of our noble harbour of Cove, in storm, in calm, in haze, and in sunshine: together with brigs, schooners, cutters, and steamers in every position and circumstance. His vessels are exquisitely perfect; his sea, whether in storm or calm, is admirable; but his clouds are in some instance very blotchy, and wanting breadth. However, this defect is by no means apparent in No. 51, Victory Steamer, in which the clouds are managed with great skill and success. [Cork Examiner, 26th Sept. 1841, p. 2, col. 5]
Another maritime painting
in the 1841 exhibition was The Wreck of the Killarney Steamer, by George
which was praised for being 'a bold attempt'. The
critic of the Examiner found some difficulty with the shadows cast by the sunlight
striking a cliff, which were 'outraging probability', and commented that a
self-portrait by the same artist was 'worth two of the other'. The Constitution's
writer, however, was more impressed, and thought that those same cliffs were "powerfully
delineated, clear to the apprehension, though seen through a dim, misty medium".
[Cork Constitution, Dec. 4th 1841, p. 3, col. 3] Hayes also showed A Portrait
of the Artist and a Portrait of Richard Dowden. Two years later, Hayes, with
an address at 12 Nile Street, Cork, showed two paintings, one entitled Shipwreck,
at the RHA; the only time he was to show with the Academy. [A. Stewart, Vol.
II, p. 72]
James Brenan showed several works in the 1841 Cork exhibition, including Blarney Castle, North-East View, while William C. Houston (also spelt Huston) was represented by 'several heads', his Portrait of Lady Powerscourt being described as 'wonderfully fleshy'. Five landscapes, including one of The Leixlip Salmon Leap, County Kildare were contributed by John Connell (probably the nephew of John Minton Connell, Cork miniature painter), Landscape Storm was the title of William James Morgan's only contribution, while Mrs. W. Connell showed a landscape, 'a graceful little composition, done in watercolours'. The Examiner's correspondent was very taken with an unfinished portrait of Richard Dowden, by an unnamed woman painter: 'it is Richard Dowden, to the life', and finished his review with a favourable mention of three watercolours by Henry John Noblett, interior views of Kilcrea Abbey, Holy Cross Abbey and a third work entitled Snow Piece; Composition, which the critic of the Constitution thought 'as refreshing as ice-cream'. [ Cork Constitution, Nov. 27th, 1841, p. 2, col. 4, Dec. 4th 1841, p. 3, col. 3]]
James Mahoney, the founder of the Cork Art Union, showed four works--Italian scenes--one entitled Bay of Naples: Lazzaroni improvising before the door of the Osteria, the second Nilla Chiese di San Benedetto (Subiaco), the third The Interior of Milan Cathedral, and the fourth The Bridge of Sighs. [Cork Constitution, Nov. 27th 1841, p. 2, col. 4; Dec. 11th, 1841, p. 3, col. 2] Samuel Skillen, the co-founder of the Cork Art Union and described by the Constitution as 'a young artist of our Cork School', showed several portraits including Pity the sorrows of a poor old man, Portrait of a Gentleman (an elderly clergyman), Portrait of W. Wyon R. A., (Wyon was a famous engraver of medals) and a Sketch of an MRIA. This last was Father Matthew Horgan, the president of the South Munster Antiquaries who was depicted
listening with suppressed feeling to some Pagan, unconverted from the error of his faith the the Christianity of Irish Round Towers and preparing, the moment he can burst forth, equally to demolish the Fire Altar and its worshipper; while his indefatigable friend evidently has just recovered some Ogham inscription, uncouth and hopelessly obscure to us from the dust of bygone ages, and is preparing to extract its hidden meaning with the resistless pincers of his tried and occult learning. [Cork Constitution, Dec. 9th, 1841, p. 2, col. 7]
Skillen also showed a posthumous full-length portrait of William Crawford addressing a meeting, which he had painted from memory for the Board of Guardians of the Cork Art Union. After being exhibited at the Art Union, this portrait was moved to the Hall of the Poor Law Guardians. [Cork Constitution, Dec. 11th, 1841, p. 3, col. 2]
The first part of the three-volume travel book, Ireland, its Scenery and Character, by Mr. and Mrs. S. C. Hall, was published in 1841. Samuel Carter Hall was at that time the editor of the Art Journal in London; his wife Anna Maria was an author in her own right. The Halls were friends and supporters of Daniel Maclise, John Windele and Crofton Croker, who all contributed illustrations to the book, as did Henry John Noblett.
John Turpin, in his biography of John Hogan, regards the years around 1842 as being the high point in the Cork-trained sculptor's life. Based in Rome, although returning to Ireland at regular intervals, Hogan worked on a number of important commissions, the most impressive being a commemorative monumental full-length portrait of William Crawford, which is now in the Crawford Gallery's collection. Hogan wrote about this commission in a letter published in the Cork Examiner of March 21st, 1842:
I am still modelling Mr. Crawford's statue, the marble for which is said to be the most splendid and most transparent block that ever entered the Eternal City--being excavated from the first quarry at Carrara, and known by the name of Grestallo. It is more than eleven feet long, and measures more than 260 cubic palms--hereby acknowledged the largest block recollected to be removed from that celebrated cave, as such pure marble runs chiefly in small pieces, and is generally used for busts and cabinet figures--always bearing an exorbitant price, even at Carrara. [Cork Examiner, 21st March 1842, p. 2, Col. 5]
This monumental statue of Crawford was placed in the Banking Hall of the newly-completed
Cork Savings Bank on Lapp's Quay.
Hogan went on to detail other works by him which were being crated for shipment to Ireland. These included a marble bust for Francis Beamish, and another for delivery to Fr. Theobald Matthew's brother. The former work was probably the portrait of William Beamish (presently untraced) and the latter, almost certainly that portrait of Fr. Mathew himself which was exhibited at the RHA two years later. Hogan was also crating a marble bust of 'our mutual friend--I will not mention the illustrious gentleman's name', which is probably the portrait of Daniel O'Connell listed by Turpin in his catalogue of Hogan's work, as No.48. [J. Turpin, p. 156] Hogan continued in his letter:
Drummond's is almost abloszato, by my men, the marble of which is spotless, and the figure extolled to the skies by the dilletanti, and persons visiting my studio, for the manner in which I have treated the same. I have modelled a sketch of Mr. Beamish's monument, which, when executed and studied well from the life, will form a grand and imposing composition.
This sketch for the Beamish monument is almost certainly the full size plaster model presently in the Crawford Gallery's collection, which Turpin dates to 1842-43. [ Footnote: Turpin, p. 132: No. 6 in Turpin's catalogue]
In March 1842, the Royal Irish Art Union met at their boardroom in College-street, The chairman was Sir Thomas Deane, who spoke at some length about the importance of encouraging and supporting artists. Rather than give a lengthy dissertation, Deane recounted an anecdote to prove his point.
At one of the meetings
of the society for the encouragement of the arts in the South of Ireland,
medals were awarded
and given under peculiarly striking
circumstances to two young men--McClise, who is now one of the leading ornaments
of the Royal Academy in England, and to Hogan, now a member of the Institute
of the Pantheon at Rome, the first and only British subject who has acquired
that honor, both natives of Cork. At this meeting the son of a shoemaker was
so much impressed by the scene as well as excited by the example of his townsmen,
earning for themselves so much renown, that he said, on returning home: "Father,
not another shoe will I make; I do not see why I should not also be an artist,
and earn a name as well as a livelihood for myself." "So you shall," said
a lady, who happened to be by, and had witnessed previously strong indications
of talent in the lad, "and there's two guineas to commence with--you shall
paint my portrait." The portrait was taken, and gave great satisfaction,
and was followed by several similiar orders. When resolving to go to London
to improve himself, some gentlemen were most willing to come forward and aid
him by a subscription, which, with great independence of spirit, was respectfully
declined. "I have already, (said he) made upwards of twenty guineas, and
hope, by God's help and my own exertions, to make my way" (cheers); and
he had most nobly made his way, for he (Sir Thomas Deane) had lately left him
in England, in the highest repute as an artist, and receiving for his portraits
from fifty to an hundred guineas each.
Several members--Name, name.
Sir Thomas Deane--I have no objection in mentioning the name. I allude to Mr. Fisher, of whom we have every reason to be proud as an artist and as a countryman (loud cheers). [Footnote: Cork Examiner, March 30, 1842, p.1, col.4]
William Fisher (1817-1895) had indeed been a precocious young artist in Cork, producing at the age of seventeen a good portrait of Robert O'Callaghan Newenham (exhibited at the Cork Exhibition in 1852). After some time in Italy he had settled in London (in Cork Street, coincidentally), in 1840, where he was a regular contributor to the Royal Academy, and also to the RHA. In 1842, as Strickland notes, Fisher showed a Portrait of G. R. Paine at the Cork Art Union Exhibition, and the following year, no doubt largely due to Deane's efforts, the Royal Irish Art Union purchased Fisher's Hermia and Helena from the RHA annual exhibition for £60, to be included in the lottery for that year. [Footnote: Strickland, vol.1, p.349-350] Fisher's portrait of fellow artist Samuel Skillen (c.1819-1847) is in the Crawford Gallery collection (Cat. No.491).
Deane went on to say how much he hoped Irish artists would be involved in the re-building of the Houses of Parliament: John Hogan was to be employed on the project, a fact which gave Deane considerable satisfaction, "as he had been the first person to place working tools in the hands of Hogan"; however, in the event, Hogan does not appear to have worked on this project.
The second Cork Art Union Exhibition was held in September of 1842. William Fisher's three portraits, particularly that of Pain (the architect), received favourable criticism, the writer noting that the artist was a 'mere boy' when the portrait was drawn. John Connell, nephew of the Cork miniature painter John Minton Connell, was singled out for some praise for his views of Ross Castle in Killarney, Howth Head in Dublin Bay, and The Rope Walk near Sunday's Well. Little is known about Connell: Strickland remarks that he showed some promise as a landscape painter, but died young. [Strickland, Vol. I, p. 202] The critic of the Examiner was particularly taken with Connell's Irish skies:
It must be evident to all who look on the Killarney and the Dublin Bay pictures, and behold the mild, subdued, and exquisite light in the skies over each, that they are Irish, and not Italian skies. We have no hesitation in saying it is happy for the artist that he has not visited Italy as yet, until his powers and judgment are both matured; for we can conceive nothing more disastrous to an inexperienced student, or to one who has not been well grounded by study and constant copying of nature as she really is, than to send him, with mind unformed, and pencil undisciplined, to daub, with a brush dipped in indigo, quasi Italian Skies! We have, with pain, observed the most monstrous errors, the most glaring absurdities resulting from a visit to the land of Tasso and Ariosto, Raphael and Michael Angelo. We have known an artist to represent the magnificent heaven of Italy, flooding with its glowing light an Irish hut, and--an Irish pigstye! The skies of Mr. Connell are decidedly our own, possessing a thousand mild charms, and adding those exquisite tints to our mountain scenery, casting over it, as it were, a soft silvery haze, melting into a delicious, tender blue. Who would, that is conversant with the witching beauties of Killarney, our Irish Switzerland, and feels how much they belong to the shadowy mist--to the subdued sunlight--to the peep of blue through the rent grey cloud--who, we ask, would desire that the intense, vivid, cloudless sky of Naples blazed over wooded Torc, or glorious Mangerton? Certainly, not a true Irishman, nor a true lover of nature and her countless charms, ever changing, ever varying, but ever beautiful. [Footnote: Cork Examiner, Sept.14, 1842, p.2, col.5]
Edward Harding (1804-1870)
a portrait painter, whose miniatures, Strickland notes, "were much esteemed in the South of Ireland",
had contrived to cover a large part of the walls of the exhibition room with
portraits done in lamp-black' as well as some miniatures on ivory. The correspondent
reckoned that Harding's portrait of Mrs. Capt. Rogers was 'gorgeous' and would
easily fetch 50 guineas in London. Harding's portrait of Queen Victoria found
little favour in the eyes of the Examiner's critic, although he did allow that
the parrot included in the painting was 'rich, rare and regal'. [Cork Examiner,
12th Oct. 1842, p. 4 col. 5: the critic in this later edition of the Examiner
does not appear to be the same writer as in the Sept.14 issue.]
Samuel Skillen had contributed three works to the exhibition: A Scene from the Marriage of Figaro, and A Fruit Girl of the Olden Time, but it was a 'Lear-like' portrait by Skillen,The King of the Munster Beggars, painted from life, that drew the praise of the critic. A short biography of the subject was appended:
This old man, whose name in John Clarke, is a native of Blarney, is 88 years of age, served on board the Polyphemus Frigate, was a prisoner of war at Amiens for three years and five months, and has visited every quarter of the globe. [Cork Examiner, 14th Sept. 1842, p. 2, col. 5]
This portrait, and A scene from the Marriage of Figaro, were later exhibited
at the RHA. Strickland states that The King of the Munster Beggars was purchased
by the Royal Irish Art Union for twenty pounds, and was won as a prize by the
Rev. D. W. Fox of Rathmines in Dublin, afterwards passing into the possession
of John Windele of Cork. [W. G. Strickland, Vol. II, p. 357] However, reports
in the November 4th edition of the Cork Examiner (see below) indicate that
the portrait was purchased by the Cork Art Union and won in their lottery by
the secretary of the Union, John Windele. A portrait of John Windele by Samuel
Skillen is in the collection of the Crawford Art Gallery (Cat. No.322).
William Roe was again represented in the Art Union exhibition, contributing two watercolours; No. 24, Kerry Peasantry, Killarney, and No. 49, Irish Peasant Emigrants bound for America, both described by the Examiner's correspondent as 'so Irish, so true, so natural', even if perhaps a little inclined towards caricature. The correspondent waxed eloqent on the latter work:
While we admire the humour
and power of the other, the Emigrants, we cannot but regret that it is too
frequently seen. The locale of the picture
is in the New-street, opposite the Vulcan Iron Works: and the group consists
of a number of comfortable, well-clad peasants--men, women and children--the
Banithee and her decent partner,--the Colleen Dhas and the Bouchal Oge--and
the little, sturdy, plump, cake-munching gossoon. Their worldly goods are heaped
on two cars, which are tilted on their shafts--the horses standing free. Two
majestic, long-snouted, huge-eared Porkers would suggest the idea that the
emigrants were about bearing to another land the Lares of their abandoned home.
The most prominent figure in the group is that of a well-limbed, clean-ancled,
brown-necked Bouchal, dressed to the life, looking to the life, standing to
the life, and holding his kippeen to the life. He is the very beau ideal of
Irish ease and Irish bashfulness--a junction most paradoxical, but true--the
one natural--the other accidental, and easily accounted for by the presence
of a rosy, roguish, bright-eyed damsel, whose eloguent smile speaks volumes
for her admiration of Paddy's proportions and elegance. it is decidedly "love
at first sight", or there is no truth in painting. The two sitting figures
of the women, in their "span new" cloaks, are excellent: though we
are rather inclined to think that the consolation of the cloud-compelling dhudeen
is by far too premature for the appearance of one of the ladies.
[Cork Examiner, 14th Sept. 1842, p. 2, col. 5]
Two weeks later, on October
3, 1842, the second of three reviews of the Art Union Exhibition appeared,
covering works by J. B. Brenan, G. M. W.
Atkinson, Daniel MacDonald and others. Robert Lowe Stopford, who the previous
year had exhibited for the first time at the RHA, was credited with a 'very
good graphic view' of the Anglesea Bridge. George Mounsey Wheatley Atkinson
(c. 1806-1884) showed no less than eight maritime paintings, including an Eastern
View of Cork Harbour, Two Frigates Beating out of Cork Harbour, A Steamship
in A Storm, and The River Steamers. Two moonlight pieces, and an evening view
of Cove induced the critic to wax lyrical for some time on 'blue jackets, and
cutlasses and cuttings-out, and hurricanes weathered' before finishing up with
a resounding "Hurra, hurra, hurra! Mr. Atkinson must be a true painter;
he makes us absolutely poetical; and, to make a critic poetical is no easy
matter." At least two of these same paintings had been exhibited that
same year, at the 1842 RHA exhibition, where Atkinson showed for the first
time. Over the following three years, he was to show a total of twenty maritime
paintings at the RHA, but apparently did not meet with much commercial success.
[A. Stewart, Vol. I, p. 23]
The Daniel MacDonald painting reviewed is of some importance, in that having remained in the collection of the Cork and County Club for perhaps a century, it was acquired with the aid of a public subscription by the Crawford Art Gallery. The Examiner critic devoted some time to describing it:
No. 41 Demands our attention.
It is Bowling; by Mr. D. Macdonald. Its characteristic is floridness. It
in scenery and coloring, too fine for its subject.
But when the artist's judgement shall have been sobered down, somewhat, to
the forcible simplicity of things as they are, we think he will be capable
of a great deal. His figures on the left are well disposed, though rather too
crowded, and too freshly tinted. Those on the right are very expressive and
very good. The squire, or well-dressed young farmer, leaning forward, less
to mark the chances of the bowl, than to put his "commether" on the
coquettish little peasant girls before him, is very well imagined and executed.
The principal figure--yes, really, we should be much better pleased if that
principal figure was left out altogether, by particular desire. The head seems
arranged for an appearance on the stage, and it wears pumps--the figure, we
mean. Moreover, the face is the very facsimile of a portrait in the room by
the same artist. Mr. MacDonald has much to unlearn.
[Cork Examiner, 3rd Oct. 1842, p. 1, cols. 3 & 4]
MacDonald also showed a Still life with Oysters, a painting of A Hare, and another work with the curious title The Fairy Blast, while his sister Jane MacDonald received praise for her Shylock and Learning to Walk. This was a prolific year for the twenty-one year old artist: Strickland records that Daniel MacDonald in 1842, 'while living with his parents in Patrick Street, Cork,' sent four paintings to the RHA annual exhibition: They included the still life, now listed in the RHA catalogue as Dead Widgeon and Cork Harbour Oysters, and three other works: "Royalty"-- A stag hound from nature, Preparing for bed in an Irish cabin, and Falstaff, Bardolph and the Page, entertained by Justice Shallow, from the second part of Shakespeare's Henry IV. MacDonald was to exhibit at the RHA in the two years following, before moving to London. [A. Stewart, Vol. II, p. 219] Crookshank and Glin refer to another work by MacDonald, painted the previous year; The Eagle's Nest, Killarney 1841. [Crookshank and Glin, p. 201]
Other artists covered in the Examiner's review were J. E. Smith, who showed A Country Fair, and P. Dalton, 'a very young artist', of whom there is no other record save that he also exhibited a work entitled The Devout Beggarman at the RHA the following year. [A. Stewart, Vol. I, p. 191]
The Examiner's gave further coverage to the 1842 Art Union Exhibition in a third review, published in October 12 issue, with the critic commenting first on a Swiss Scene by R. D. Parker. The writer took exception to the inclusion of a steamboat: "Alas, there is a funnel vapouring along the most beautiful of lakes. A smoky civilisation with paddles . . ." [Cork Examiner, 12th Oct. 1842, p. 4, col. 5] Among the other artists mentioned were Mr. Anderson, T. Hart, and James Mahoney, who showed a painting entitled The Illuminated Roman Ritual. Mahoney also exhibited at the RHA in 1842 a painting entitled The Consecration of the Roman Catholic Church of St. Mary's, Pope's Quay, Cork, which had been designed and built by Kearns Deane. Over the next four years, Mahoney was exhibit at the RHA a considerable number of the watercolour views which he had made on his European travels, before setting out once again, in 1856, to continue those travels. Throughout this period, Mahoney's main career was as an illustrator for English magazines like The Illustrated London News and Cassell's Magazine. He also illustrated the Household Edition of Charles Dickens' works. [Crookshank and Glin, p. 195] Mahoney's brother, Patrick, was an architect in Cork. [A. Stewart, Vol. II, p. 253; W. G. Strickland, Vol. II, p. 89] Daniel Maclise, who the previous year had contributed two illustrations to Hall's Ireland, its Scenery and Character, was represented in the 1842 Cork exhibition by a small sketch, 'from a passage in the Grecian Daughter', while Samuel Watson's The Rival Dancing-masters afforded the Examiner's writer 'not a little amusement':
Only conceive all the muscular energy of the gentleman on the right, who, scorning to limit himself to his legs, gives up both arms to the delirium of the dance, and, looking down along his vehement limbs with an air of vigorous complacency, and a manly superiority over all gentler practice, contemplates the final cut indescribable, which shakes the foot-board like a shower of grape-shot, just before his climacteric shout, shall startle the echoes, his hat fly twenty yards and upwards, into the air, and his flushed face radiate in all directions for the applause which, upon our honor, he deserves, if it were only for the strength of his legs: -and then, admire the professional pose of the other, in the centre, who is known to have been in Dublin, and is generally thought to have gone so far as France - a supposition which he rather favours than otherwise, saying Mounseer always to the fathers of his pupils, and speaking something very quick, which must be foreign, as it is neither English nor Irish - and who has certainly a Frenchified look, as he stands there with his tuft brushed up sharply from his forehead, his arms loftily folded, his feet planted to their precise angle, his brow a little elevated and his whole air eloquent of the impassable and somewhat contemptuous spirit that is within him, as he meditates for his next turn . . . A dog, held back by a boy with a string, and struggling violently to assault the dancer, evidently mistaking the gestures of his saltatory frenzy for a challenge to fight. [Cork Examiner, 12th Oct. 1842, p. 4, col. 5]
Watson also showed a portrait of a peasant descendant of the O'Donnells, 'a bold insurrectionary race':
There is, in this countenance, all the cankering discontent, which poverty,
and perhaps the worthless recollection of ancestorial prosperity, not yet quenched
in the daily degradations of generations, have cherished in the heart of the
poor old fellow.
[Cork Examiner, 3rd Oct. 1842, p. 1, col. 3]
Samuel Watson (1818-c.1867), a Cork-born painter and lithographer, had moved
to Dublin in 1836 along with his brother, portrait painter Henry Watson. He
is best-known for his lithographed portraits of leaders of the Young Ireland
movement, done in the late 1840's. He also produced large maps of Irish towns,
surrounded with local views, which were published in Dublin, and was one of
the first to introduce the art of chromo-lithographic reproduction into Ireland.
[W. G. Strickland, Vol. II, p. 509] Watson exhibited at the RHA only four times,
in 1845, when he showed The Irish Jig and The Battle of Clontarf; 1846, when
he showed A scene at Donnybrook Fair; and again in 1848 and 1895. [A. Stewart,
Vol. III, p. 256]
There were a good number of other portraits in the 1842 exhibition. In addition to those by William Roe and William Fisher already mentioned, there was a portrait of Jack Flaherty, the Tipperary Beggar, by W. Mills, as well as works by Joseph Haverty ('if our face was worth painting, Mr. Haverty should paint it') and James Henry Brocas. Brocas (1790-1846), who had settled in Cork in 1834, was one of the four sons of Henry Brocas Senior, a prominent Dublin artist. There was also a self-portrait by Samuel Forde, "the shyest, the gentlest, and most unaffected of beings". This last portrait is now in the collection of the Crawford Gallery (Cat. No. 388).
The visit of the Rev. Charles Constantine Pise to Cork in 1842 did not impress everyone in the city:
No. 55 is a portrait of the American preacher, who effected fifteen hundred, or fifteen thousand conversions in the City of Cork alone. This is a fact. Those who doubt it would doubt anything. The likeness is not a very happy one.[Ibid; see also "The Rev. Charles Constantine Pise; An American Visits Cork, 1842", The Capuchin Annual, 1941, pp. 138-157]
In addition to a medallion portrait, the sculptor John Hogan showed three
marble portrait busts in the exhibition, of the Rev. Mr. Mathew, Mr. Murphy
and Mr. Lyons. (This last may have depicted T. Lyons, who resided at Trafalgar
House in Montenotte around this time.) [M. Bence-Jones, p. 276] The Crawford
Gallery possesses portrait busts of three different Murphys--Daniel, James
and the Rev. Dr. John Murphy--all dating from 1834 and any one of which may
have been the bust exhibited at the Cork Art Union in 1842. Another portrait
medallion was shown by a sculptor called Cahill (probably James Cahill, who
ten years later was to work in Hogan's studio in Dublin.), while the young
Cork sculptor Edward Ambrose (1814-1890) was represented by a grouping of flowers,
carved in stone. [Footnote: the Examiner refers to the artist as J. Ambrose,
but this is likely a typographical error.]
The last item in the exhibition to receive the notice of the Examiner's critic was a group of daguerreotypes laid out on a table in the exhibition room. They had been made under the direction of Mr. Lemoile, the 'local patentee', and were described as portraits of people sitting in a 'wonder-at-nothing-after-this frame of mind'. Another optical device, the camera obscura, had been used by 'our scientific and ingenious townsman, Mr. Nott', to produce works shown in the exhibition.
The distribution of Art Union Prizes took place at Marsh's Rooms on the South Mall, under the chairmanship of Lord Bernard. The Secretary, John Windele, reported that at the close of the previous year, the Cork Art Union had attracted 120 members, amongst whom 24 pictures (purchased for a total of £140) had been distributed. However, in the present year, membership had risen to 300, amongst whom 38 paintings were to be distributed by lot. Lest there be any feelings of disappointment at the slow but steady growth of the Cork Art Union, Windele recollected that the giant London Art Union, which at that point consisted of over 20,000 subscribers, had a mere 400 members in its first year. It was to be regretted, he added, that practically all support for the Cork Art Union had come from the city of Cork, in spite of its avowed aims to encompass the entire south of Ireland. Nontheless, the whole enterprise was judged a great success, both from the point of view of the public and the artist. A good many artists had participated in the second exhibition, who had 'kept aloof' in 1841, but many of them had placed what were felt to be unreasonably high prices on their works. After some negotiation, most of these prices had been reduced, in order that the Art Union could afford to buy the 37 works for distribution. Windele commented:
That some such mode of fostering Art in Cork as that which characterizes the Art Union principle, is absolutely necessary, is manifestly shown in the scarcely credible fact--ascertained, however, upon sufficient enquiry--that neither in the last nor in the present Exhibition, have more than one or two single orders, for the purchase or painting of pictures been given to any of the numerous artists whose productions grace your walls. Apart, therefore, from that employment which teaching, or the execution of portraits gives, there remains scarcely any other market for artistic talent, . . [Footnote: Cork Examiner, Nov. 4, 1842]
Art Unions in other cities had attracted subscribers with the promise of an engraving each year, in addition to the possibility of winning a painting by lottery. However, the Cork Art Union, having examined the costs involved in producing an engraving, had concluded that it would absorb almost half their available income, and had decided to concentrate their spending on acquiring works of art. Their policy in acquiring works was to try and aim for a wide representation of artists, rather than concentrating on the 'very best, from a few'. However, there was one aspect of the Cork Art Union which Windele felt needed to be addressed:
. . .the question, which has been often raised, and which ought to be disposed of--the exclusiveness of this society--shutting out, as it does, from the advantages of its funds, all non-subscribing artists. This principle is, on the face of it, narrow, and with the exception of Glasgow, dissimiliar to that of all other Art Unions, whilst in truth it is also injurious to the artists themselves. It shuts out the works of men who have attained eminence in the profession elsewhere, and excludes the means of improvement which should be open to our students, and even to our more experienced professors. [Ibid]
After Lord Bernard delivered a speech, in which he touched on the importance of Cork artists striving to gain commissions on the new Houses of Parliament, Sir Thomas Deane moved that the report of the Secretary be adopted. He also moved that the 'gentlemen scrutiners and conductors of the ballot' be Messrs Bagnell, Willis and Parker, who duly conducted the lottery. Slips of paper bearing the names of each subscriber were placed in a hat on the table. In another hat alongside were placed thirty-eight numbered slips, one for each work of art to be included in the lottery. The hats were covered with handkerchiefs, so that no one could see the names on the tickets, and as the draw commenced " . . .the greatest possible excitement pervaded the room, all pressing forward with a kind of instinctive movement towards the mysterious hats, in which success and disappointment were unconsciously buried." [Ibid]. These simple precautions did not prevent the Secretary, John Windele, from doing well in the draw: his name was drawn along with the slip for Samuel Skillen's painting the King of the Munster Beggars, which was generally agreed to be the masterpiece of the exhibition.
One of the exhibitors at the Cork Art Union exhibition was Italian portrait painter Felice Piccioni (fl. 1830-42), whom Strickland records as moving to Cork some time after 1834 (the date is unspecified). Piccione did portraits and caricatures, including Bothered Dan and Foxy Norry, 'two well-known mendicants'. [W. G. Strickland, Vol. II, p. 245] His charming watercolour portrait of members of the Briscoe family, of Fermoy, is illustrated in Crookshank and Glin's The Painters of Ireland. It is signed and dated 'Fermoy 24th June 1842'. [A. Crookshank & Glin, p. 183] The town of Fermoy was depicted around this time, in a large panoramic view by William Sadler III (b. 1808), showing the extensive ranges of military barracks which dominated this garrison town in the nineteenth century (they have since been largely demolished).
In August 1843, largely through the efforts of James Roche and Sir Thomas Deane, the British Association for the Advancement of Science met in Cork. Most of the lectures and conferences, attended by, amongst others, Charles Dickens, Sir William Hamilton Rowan, Thomas Crofton Croker, Thomas Davis and William Smith O'Brien, were held at the Royal Cork Institution's home in the Old Custom House. The conference was successful in promoting the Royal Cork Institution, in spite of some adverse local criticism concerning the condition of the building. This same criticism had been voiced a year earlier, in 1842, by William Makepeace Thackeray, who had visited Cork:
There is an institution, with a fair library of scientific works; a museum, and a drawing-school with a supply of casts. The place is in yet more dismal condition than the library. The plasters are spoiled incurably for want of a sixpenny feather-brush; the dust lies on the walls, and nobody seems to heed it. Two shillings a year would have repaired much of the evil which has happened to this institution; and it is folly to talk of inward dissensions and political differences as causing the ruin of such institutions. Kings or law don't cause or cure dust and cobwebs; but indolence leaves them to accumulate, and imprudence will not calculate its income, and vanity exaggerates its own powers, and the fault is laid upon that tyrant of a sister kingdom. The whole country is filled with such failures; swaggering beginnings that could not be carried through; grand enterprises begun dashingly, and ending in shabby compromises or downright ruin. [Footnote: William Makepeace Thackeray, An Irish Sketchbook, 1842 (London: Chapman & Hall, 1843), p.83]
Thackerey was not alone
in his opinions. At a meeting of the Cork Art Union held in May 1843, Mr.
Keleher had commented
on the 'wretched condition' of
the casts in the Institution's building, and had requested that the Institution
construct a new gallery for the casts. Sir Thomas Deane, a manager of the Institution,
said that if they were to spend their own capital on a project such as this,
they might as well give up altogether. Deane was not sanguine about receiving
local support: "The people of Cork did nothing but talk - they were proficient
at filling up a newspaper with their speeches, but they did not put their hands
in their pockets." [Cork Constitution, May 6th 1843, p. 2, col. 7] Deane
admitted that he himself was probably one of the greatest talkers in Cork,
'but it was to abuse them.'
Although Thackeray's criticisms were no doubt true, the existence in the Crawford Gallery archives of a sheaf of bills from this period does attest that money was being spent on maintaining the century-old building. Thomas Lyons, tiler, had already spent several weeks repairing the roof in December 1838, for which work he received three and sixpence a day. John Donovan, carpenter, built bookcases in the library; William Hennessy spent two days fitting up glass cases in the committee room. James Cotter also did several days carpentering work, again at three and sixpence a day. James Mangan's Watch and Clock Manufactory at 3, Patrick Street received the sum of six shillings and sixpence 'for repairing and cleaning the House Clock, due on the 20th January 1843'. In August of that year, Michael Sullivan was paid ten shillings for painting the gates; 'two coats'. The Cork Arms Paper Hanging Factory Establishment at 11 Princes Street, were paid three pounds and five shillings for decorating the library and museum rooms. However, Lyons' repairs to the roof did not last too long: In July of 1843, the Institution purchased from Robert Ormond '4 hundred of liver coloured slate' for five shillings and fourpence. Obviously the whole building was re-slated in 1843: a total of around fifteen hundred slates had been purchased by December of that year, along with laths, pounds of cast nails and 'quarts' of pegs.
The Old Custom House must have reverberated with the sound of sawing and hammering throughout 1843, for apart from the work on the roof, John Donovan the carpenter and Thomas Hooper, a mason, continued work on renovating other parts of the building. Barrabas McLoughlin even swept all the chimneys in July 1843, for the princely sum of six shillings and sixpence, and the prudence of the managers of the Institution extended to not alone insuring the building for the sum of £3000 with the West of England Insurance Company of Exeter, but also with the Phoenix Fire Office, for the sum of £4000. Other sums were paid out to cover piped water (2 Guineas for the year), parish rates (1 guinea, 'applotted at Easter for the Parish of St. Paul'), and just over seventeen pounds, being the Institution's 'proportion of the Public Money, LAMP MONEY included, presented to be raised by the Grand Jury, as the General Assizes held for the City of Cork, in MARCH 1842.' In fact, most of the receipts that survive date from 1843 and possibly indicate a response by the managers of the Institution to the criticisms voiced by Thackerey and others the previous year concerning the condition of the building; although choosing the year the British Association met in Cork must have created some headaches.
Work was not confined to
the fabric of the building: By September of 1843, John Humphreys had completed
catalogue of the books in the library,
which included journals such as the Lancet, the Edinburgh Review and the Law
Magazine, as well as such treasures as Bell's British Quadrupeds. Journals
of geology, medicine, philosophy and mechanics formed the substance of the
library's holdings. Most of them were purchased through Bradford & Co.,
of Patrick Street in Cork.
In spite of the cobwebs and dust, the hammering and banging, the building continued in use by the Royal Cork Institution, and several other associations, including the Cork Literary and Scientific Society. (Indeed, the Literary and Scientific Society, as well as the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society, continue to use the building for their meetings to the present day.) The record of the Literary and Scientific Society's meeting held on Thursday October 3rd 1844 makes interesting reading:
The Society opened the
session with a conversazione in the suite of rooms forming the museum and
library of the
Royal Cork Institution. The number of
members, subscribers, and visitors exceeded 220. Mr. Nott exhibited his electro-magnetic
apparatus; the air-pump, microscope, and orrery belonging to the Institution
were also in use, and several very interesting objects and experiments were
shown. Several ladies gave their services in dispensing tea and coffee to the
company, and at half past nine o'clock they all withdrew to the lecture room,
when the president Counsellor Francis Walsh, took the chair, and delivered
a very able address. [W. F. Allman, "The Cork Literary and Scientific
Society", Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society, Vol.1,
Dr. Hincks had taken the opportunity of the visit of the British Association, to lament on the declining fortunes of the Royal Cork Institution. One of the Association's members, Sir William Hamilton, advised Hincks to petition Parliament for a renewal of the Institution's annual grant. A special meeting of the Institution was convened in September, which was, however, so ill-attended that no business could be done. Major Beamish read out the memorial which they were to present to Parliament, stressing the importance of the Royal Charter, and the moral obligation it placed on the government to assist them. However, that same Charter, by vesting management so firmly in the hands of the proprietors, had resulted in the gradual withdrawal of popular support for the Institution. [Cork Constitution, Sept. 30th 1833, p. 2, col. 7] This withdrawal of support was to continue in the years following, until the effective winding-up of the Institution after the founding of Queens College Cork, in 1849.
The art world in Cork was no less active in this eventful year of 1843. The third Art Union Exhibition was opened on Monday 14th August, at 'the Saloon of the late Society of Arts on Patrick Street' (also referred to by then as 'McDonnell's Mart'). The large room, with its central door, was closely hung with a large number of paintings and drawings, mostly by Irish artists. Although there was dismay at the delay of six days in opening the exhibition, the Constitution congratulated the 'projectors and perpetuators' of the Cork Art Union on their work: "All our artists are here; the dead, the expatriated and the living, and local; and they form a distinguished and a goodly company, Saluez les!" [Cork Constitution, August 22nd 1843, p. 4, col. 6]
In an hospitable gesture, the Union invited members of the British Association, who were then in Cork, to attend the exhibition free of charge. There was a specific intention behind this invitation: The members of Cork Art Union were acutely aware that most artistic patronage emanated from England--it was an oft-repeated criticism that many of the English and Scottish artists who had shown previously in the Union's annual exhibition were well supported in their own part of the world and had no real need to solicit new patronage in Ireland, to the detriment of Irish artists' livelihoods. Nevertheless, the sophistication and acceptability of the imported paintings made the argument in support of native artists difficult to put across to the public, who were apt to buy pictures they liked. Moreover, the picture-buying public in Cork were also apt to buy paintings by English artists for reasons of snobbery and social prestige. This prejudice was by no means confined to Cork. Earlier that year, at a meeting of the Cork Art Union held in May 1843, John Henry Brocas had spoken of the unfortunate decision of 'a certain Northern Ireland Art Union' which,
having collected a sum of Two Hundred Pounds for the avowed purpose of encouraging Irish Art, paid away one hundred and sixty pounds for freightage and coach-hire for pictures brought from different parts of England and Scotland, and then turned round upon their disappointed townsmen and told them that the residue of the fund was little enough to pay the incidental expenses of the Exhibition and that they were too poor to buy any of their pictures. [Cork Constitution, May 6th 1843, p. 2, col. 7]
Brocas observed that this was a rather awkward way of encouraging Irish art,
and he noted that the total contribution from England and Scotland the previous
year to the Cork Art Union had amounted to one pound.
As a result of his entreaties, the Committee agreed to include only "Pictures of Irish Artists generally, but more particularly those of the Cork School of Art" in the forthcoming exhibition, and when it opened, the Constitution was pleased to report that nearly all the paintings were by 'native artists'. [Cork Constitution, August 10th 1843, p. 3, col. 6] Sir Thomas Deane, the chairman, supported this policy, keen that Irish artists should be given the opportunity of working on the new Houses of Parliament, then under construction in London, and hoping that the presence of British Association members at the Cork Art Union would help make this a reality. [Ibid., also Cork Constitution, August 10th 1843, p. 3, col. 5]
Judging from the Examiner's Sept 6th review, the Cork Art Union Exhibition differed little from that of the previous year, apart from the inclusion of works by Grogan, Barry, Butts and Forde, in addition to works by contemporary artists. One of the Barry paintings, loaned by Mr. Jerdan, editor of the Literary Gazette, was described in the Constitution as a portrait of Jerdan's mother (although this was later corrected, and the painting identified as a portrait of the artist's mother). [Cork Constitution, August 10th 1843, p. 3, col. 6; also August 24th, 1843, p. 4, col. 6] John Connell again showed several landscape paintings including one of Enniskerry Bridge, but was considered to have 'retrograded' rather than advanced, in spite of his promising talent. The critic, while praising Connell's free handling of paint, lamented the 'hazy purple' and 'dim, uncertain, wishy-washy, sickly green' which the artist had used to suggest leaves and branches of trees. "The picture gives one the idea of nature become consumptive, and requiring the universal panacea of the 'Cold Water Cure'". [Cork Examiner, September 6, 1843, p. 4, col. 6] The Cork artist Daniel MacDonald again attracted praise, this time for his Still-Life, which represented, with 'faultless, startling fidelity', a plaice, a crab, two red herrings, a bunch of radishes, a head of cabbage and a large earthenware crock. Of MacDonald's two other paintings shown, his group of King Charles spaniels, entitled simply Dogs, received the more favourable comment. Edward Harding again showed silhouette portrait miniatures, and a watercolour portrait on ivory. Edward Hayes (1797-1864), who had been professor of painting at Kilkenny College and had afterwards moved to Dublin, showed two watercolour miniature portraits. [Ibid] A portrait of the local secretary of the British Association by Samuel Skillen had an 'arch look of waggery in the eye' according to the correspondent of the Constitution, but J. H. Brocas' portrait of George Edwards fell short of the writer's expectations: 'not good enough for the man'. Another portrait, that of Cardinal Micara, by Charles Scottowe, had been loaned to the exhibition by Fr. Theobald Mathew. [Ibid]
Cork artist George Hayes showed two works: Paul before Agrippa and Festus and The Angel Delivering Peter From Prison, while Samuel J. West continued this historical theme with his Cardinal Wolsey leaving London After his Disgrace: 'the crack picture of the present exhibition'. George M. W. Atkinson's maritime painting Rio de Janeiro, painted after a sketch by Major Wallis, was described as having 'freedom and finish'. [Cork Constitution, August 31st 1843, p. 2, col. 4] Another, better-known, maritime painter Richard Brydges Beechey showed a characteristic work, full of 'fearful grandeur and terrible sublimity', entitled the Total Loss of the Intrinsic of Liverpool, in the beginning of the year 1836, near Kilkee, a few miles to the northward of the mouth of the Shannon. [Ibid]
Sculptor James Heffernan showed A Nymph at the Bathing Fountain, causing the
Constitution to comment that it was enough to send 'ten poets raving'. [Cork
Constitution, August 22nd 1843, p. 4, col. 6] James Mahoney showed at least
ten watercolours, including one of mules with panniers and riders, Italian
Peasant Descending from the Appenines, which prompted the same writer to wax
lyrical on the subject of cheese-making in the Italian mountains. Six of the
other watercolours by Mahoney were sketches made in Normandy, two were of Egyptian
temple ruins, while No. 73, by the same artist, was titled Prospero raising
the Tempest. [Ibid.]
Henry Watson's painting The Landing of Ith in Ireland harkened back to legendary times in Ireland and depicted the Prince Ith, mortally wounded by the Irish, being dragged by his soldiers back onto his ship; 'This last has the usual sea-monster look in the prow'. Watson, depicting a legendary event which was supposed to have taken place thousands of years before the advent of Christianity, had taken the liberty of including a round tower in the composition, which the correspondent thought was likely to arouse some comment amongst the antiquaries. [Ibid.]
A landscape by William James Morgan, entitled View of the Douglas River from near Vernon Mount was described as having 'no composition, but nature': He has a fine sense of the deep-toned indistinctness at the foot of mighty trees, confused with long rich grass and fern, and brushwood, and interpenetrated here and there by the light . . .the yellow old tree in the foreground, opposed to the darker foliage beside it . . .the shadowed pool, with its floating leaves and water lilies . . . present a tout ensemble to which no critical phraseology of our's could do adequate justice." [Ibid.]
Other artists represented in the 1843 Art Union exhibition were 'Miss Olden', who showed a portrait; William Roe, who exhibited the 'very spirited' Fish Market, Skibbereen; W. Mills and John Connell, and J. Brennan who all showed landscapes. Cork topographical artist Robert Lowe Stopford exhibited a watercolour of Youghal Strand, while another local watercolourist, John Noblett, was represented by views of Gougane Barra, Convamore, Lismore Castle, and The Old Church at Kilmallock. [Cork Constitution, Sept. 9th 1843, p. 3, col. 2]
By the close of the exhibition, the Art Union had agreed on the purchase of 28 pictures, which were then distributed by lottery amongst the Union subscribers, at a meeting held on Thursday 5th October 1843. [Cork Constitution, October 3rd 1843, p. 3, col. 2] The meeting was 'fashionably attended' although the secretary of the Art Union, John Windele, had to announce that subscriptions amounted to only £255, compared with £298 the previous year. Three subscribers to the Union, Rogers, Carmichael and Beale, were singled out for praise, for their support of the purchase fund, and Sir Thomas Deane was also lauded for his services to the arts.
Mr. Keleher then drew the attention of those assembled to "the beautiful statue of Susannah which adorned their room, with work of a Cork artist, Mr. J. Heffernan, now of London. That gentleman was kind enough to make a present of that elegant model to the Cork Institution, . ." [Ibid] The committee were slightly embarrassed that none of the works brought in from England for the exhibition had sold. The Constitution then listed the works included in the raffle, and their winners:
No Subject Artist Winner Value
2 Comus D. McDonald T. S. Reeves £9
8 The Invasion S. Watson Abhm. Farran £12
12 Dogs J. H. Brocas R. Hartland £7.10
17 A Scene in the
Sabine Appenines J. Mahoney Geo. Mazon £10
65 Luxor Colonnade J. Mahoney J. Guy £2.10
168 Canal in Venice J. Mahoney H. P. Bolster £2
169 Scene at Venice J. Mahoney R. Donovan Jnr. £2
177 Rue Malpalm J. Mahoney R. C. Silkes £3
179 Rue Aux ours,
Rouen J. Mahoney Mrs. Finn £3
18 View on the River
Lee George Atkinson Geo. Hayes £5
41 Capture of the
Dart Frigate George Atkinson Wm. Marsh £15
67 View above
Blackrock George Atkinson R. W. Edden £1.10
Waterford John Connell K. A. Deane £4
69 Mullinhassig John Connell W. Sherlock £2
78 Dargle John Connell Wm. Heazle £8
70 Fish Market,
Skibbereen Wm. Roe J. Haycroft £6
166 Peasant Girls Wm. Roe Capt. Tooker £4
184 Young Nurse Wm. Roe J. Hogg £3
27 Rockborough John Brennan Wm. Keleher £5
62 Raising the
Widow's Son J. B. Brennan J. Windele £10
33 Irish Piper G. Hayes John Lindsay £2
Deliverance G. Hayes J. H. Brocas £15
64 View near
Vernon Mount W. Morgan J. L. Curtis £17
147 Killaloe Church J. Noblett T. Rogers £4
148 Gougane Barra J. Noblett Mich. Cagney £8
160 Carrigmahon R. L. Stopford W. Thorley £3
167 Cork Barracks R. L. Stopford Robert Rogers £4
191 Devotion P. Dallon W. Morgan £8
In mid-August, the Examiner's Fine Art column was dominated with the news of the arrival in Dublin of John Hogan's statue of Thomas Drummond, which was erected on a pedestal in the Royal Exchange. [Cork Examiner, 14th August 1843, p. 4, col. 5] Hogan himself, after supervising the installation of the sculpture, paid what was possibly a nostalgic visit to his birthplace, at Tallow, in Co. Waterford. A local writer, Michael Cavanagh, described his encounter with the famous artist, near Cappoquin, Co. Waterford, on a pleasant Sunday evening in the autumn of 1843:
. . we saw two men walking slowly arm in arm, approaching us from the direction of the town. . . My companion (who had seen them alight from the mail-coach that morning, and learned who they were) eagerly directed my attention to them, whispering, "Take a good look at these two gentlemen, for you will never see two such men together again; they are the two greatest artists Ireland ever gave birth to; the one next us is John Hogan, the sculptor, the other is Daniel Maclise, the painter'. [D. & M. Coakley, p. 99; quoting Michael Cavanagh's Waterford Celebrities (Waterford, no date)]
When Hogan returned to Rome, he immediately commenced work on another important monumental portrait of an Irish political figure, Daniel O'Connell, which is now in the City Hall, Dublin, alongside the statue of Drummond.
Strickland mentions a silhouette
group, dated 1843, by artist and lithographer Stephen O'Driscoll (c.1825-1895),
in the Cork Museum, entitled Father Mathew,
Dan Callaghan M. P., and the King of the Cork Beggars. This group showed Fr.
Mathew giving money to the beggar, while Callaghan looked on from the portico
of the Victoria Hotel. O'Driscoll does not appear to have shown at any of the
Cork exhibitions. Michael Holland recorded that he worked as a lithographer
in Pembroke Street, Cork, but also did caricature portraits and black paper
cut-out silhouettes, which he sold in print shops in the city. Over the years,
O'Driscoll produced caricature portraits of most of the prominent citizens
of Cork, as well as street characters and beggarmen. In later years, he was
assisted by his daughter Mary O'Driscoll, who studied at the Cork School of
Art. Holland describes his largest silhouette group portrait, done in 1870,
of a large number of prominent Cork citizens assembled in front of the Commercial
Buildings on the South Mall, also in the Cork Museum, at Fitzgerald Park. [W.
G. Strickland, Vol. II, p. 188; Michael Holland, "Two typical Cork Sketches,
by J. McDaniel and Stephen O'Driscoll", JCHAS, Ser. 2, Vol. XIX, pp. 76-7,
Another artist from Cork who is not recorded as having exhibited in that city is Patrick Lysaght (probably a military officer), who exhibited a view of Kandy, Ceylon, at the RHA in 1843, the only occasion he showed with the Academy. [A. Stewart, Vol. II, p. 211] A second work relating to Cork exhibited at the Academy that year was a Portrait of Mr. Andrew Hennessy, Cork, the Inventor of the Life-boat, by Dublin portrait painter John F. O'Kelly. [A. Stewart, Vol. III, p. 35]
The Cork marine painter, George Mounsey Wheatley Atkinson, produced probably his finest painting in the year 1843. Atkinson was conscious of his role as a visual historian, as witnessed by the title he gave the work: An event in the History of Ireland - Two Admirals in command and three first rate ships in the Cove of Cork. This painting (now in a private collection) depicted the visit of the Royal Navy's White Squadron to Cork in September 1843. The Illustrated London News described the scene:
On Friday, at one o'clock
p.m. the town of Cove presented an animated appearance when it became known
expected ships of war were making the harbour,
and crowds of persons mounted the hills, to command a view of the entrance
to the port. In a short time the firing of guns announced that they had come
within the forts of Camden and Carlisle, and at two o'clock the "St. Vincent" 120
guns ship . . . anchored near the spi-bouy. The "Camperdown" 104
guns . . . dropped anchor inside her; and the "Caledonia", 104 guns,
lay outside her. The vessel having the flag of Admiral Bowles, saluted the
flag of the admiral of the squadron, by firing 17 guns, which was answered
by a similiar discharge from the "St. Vincent" . . . It is expected
that the ships will remain at Cove until the 10th October."
[Illustrated London News 30th September 1843]
The painting, which showed the three ships at anchor in the harbour, was exhibited at the RHA the following year.
In 1843, William O'Connell commissioned George Richard Pain to design a castellated round tower, which was erected in the grounds of Mount Patrick house (also known as Tower Hill) at Glanmire, in honour of Fr. Theobald Mathew. [M. Bence-Jones, p. 216]
Early in 1844, a dispute developed about the legality of the Art Union organisations, which at that point had been established in England for over eight years, and had grown steadily in importance. A date in April had been fixed for the London Art Union draw, but one week before the draw was due to take place, a notice from the attorney-general was issued, stating that Art Unions were illegal. Although this official disapproval was ostensibly in relation to the operation of the art lottery by the unions, it was seen by some radicals as a reflection of the success of the Art Union movement, which had eroded the monopolist position of established artists, and a writer in the Cork Examiner was unequivocal in attributing blame for the suppression:
The same class of gentry who attempt to put down the school of design at Somerset-house, because it would ruin the monopoly of artists, now seek to stop the unions because they give cheap prints to the public. Monopoly is the curse of this country, whether in the print-sellers, who make the people pay dear for their prints; or the landlords who would make the people pay dear for corn. [Footnote: Cork Examiner, April 24, 1844, p.1, col.4]
Strickland records a London-based
lithographer and painter named Alexander O'Driscoll, 'probably a native of
Cork', painting The Conciliation Hall, with
the first meeting of the Repeal martyrs after their liberation, September 9th,
1844. This work was lithographed by Falkner & Sons in Manchester and published
by J. Kelly, Nassau Street, Dublin, in that same year. The previous year, a
series of lithographed portraits of legal figures called A. O'Driscoll's Legal
Gallery had been published by Graves in London. [W. G. Strickland, Vol. II,
p. 187] It is not known if Alexander O'Driscoll was related to the Cork political
caricaturist and lithographer, Stephen O'Driscoll.
Patrick Mooney, a painter with an address at 34 Nile Street, Cork, exhibited two works at the RHA annual exhibition in 1844, entitled View in the Glen of Imail and The Norman Fruiterer. There is no other record of Mooney in Cork and he exhibited at the Academy on only one other occasion, in 1845. [A. Stewart, Vol. II, p. 283]
A better-known Cork artist, Henry John Noblett, also exhibited at the RHA in 1844, for the first and last time, showing views of The Old Church and Tower, Kilmallock and Convaymore, Ballybooly Castle, from the seat of the Earl of Listowel. [A. Stewart, Vol. III, p. 17] He was then residing at 29 Grand Parade, where his two sisters were carrying on their father's business as hosiers and haberdashers. [W. G. Strickland, Vol. II, p. 174] Noblett had provided three illustrations for Hall's Ireland, its Scenery and Character, publication of which had been completed the previous year.
Samuel Skillen, who, coincidentally, also lived with two haberdashing sisters in Patrick Street, also exhibited at the Academy for the last time in 1844, showing two works, Hafad, the Gheber and La Dama Penserosa. [A. Stewart, Vol. III, p. 156]
In 1844, the Huguenot congregation in Cork built a new church on the site of their former place of worship in French Church Street. The new church, a simple structure, apparently contained a magnificent gallery and ceiling frescoes, unfortunately destroyed in more recent years in a fire; the church itself surviving. [T. F. McNamara, p. 44]
1845 appears to have continued the extraordinary growth of vitality in the
visual arts in Cork, with a host of exhibitions, lotteries and other events.
The Art Unions had happily survived the attorney-general's pronouncement as
to their doubtful legality, and a subsequent Act of Parliament confirmed their
legal validity. However, the uncertainty resulted in the Cork Art Union's fourth
annual exhibition being delayed, so much so that on December 10th 1844, the
Secretary, James Tobin placed an advertisment with the Cork Examiner, stating
that their annual exhibition in Marsh's Rooms would remain open through to
mid-January 1845, when the distribution of prizes would take place.
At one o'clock on Saturday, January 18, the friends and subscribers of the Cork Art Union assembled at Marsh's Rooms on the South Mall, under the chairmanship of Viscount Bernard, their President. The purchase funds at their disposal had dropped from £250 in 1843, to £120, largely as a result of the uncertainty generated by the legality issue, but the secretary also attributed some fall in support to ". . the unaccountable and mysterious opposition offered to it by parties from whom it may reasonably have expected support." [Cork Examiner, January 20, 1845, p. 1, cols. 6, 7] Apparently, a 'serious division' amongst committee members had resulted in some not only resigning, but also actively discouraging others from subscribing. [Cork Examiner, 22nd January 1845, p. 2, col. 4] However, in moving the adoption of the Secretary's report, Major Beamish did not equivocate in directing criticism, referring to the 'unfortunate differences' which had arisen between the artists and the previous board of management. Beamish felt that the Art Union would not thrive until a 'constellation of all the aristocracy' joined in support of the enterprise, but he was heartened to at least see 'several new stars twinkling in the subscription list.'
Referring to the recent death of Thorwaldsen, the Danish neo-classical sculptor who had been so supportive of John Hogan in Rome, Beamish commented on the reverence paid him by the Danish people, and the fact that princes and lords had attended his funeral, the way to the burial place being 'strewn with white sand and juniper, according to the ancient scandanavian custom'. Beamish looked forward to such a time in Ireland when the struggling artist would be 'treated as something better than a mere mechanic', and evinced the hope that Hogan might fill Thorwaldsen's place. (Hogan at this time was working on a bust of Beamish's friend and business associate, William Crawford. [C. Fitz-Simon, p. 136]) Beamish also alluded to one of the perennial problems associated with the support of young artists in Cork:
. . the utility of the Cork Art Union has been questioned upon the ground of our inability to retain the genius which we may happen to evoke, but which the want of encouragement sends to . . the English capital. But admitting the fact of this migration, is it nothing to scatter the seed which others reap, to kindle the flame which others feel, to warm into life the embryo of genius which in other lands is destined to bloom to eminence and distinction.
Beamish's eloquent appeal was spurred by the knowledge that a number of subscribers
had withdrawn from the Art Union, on the grounds that the artists being supported
were not remaining in Cork.
The distribution of prizes then took place, as each subscriber's name was drawn out of a hat, along with a numbered slip from a second hat. Predictably enough, 'unrestrained laughter' ensued as the name of each subscriber unlucky enough to draw a blank was read out. The results of the ballot were reported in the Examiner on January 20th, but were apparently so inaccurate that a second 'correct' list was published two days later:
J. F. Maguire--H. M. S.
Caledonia, bearing the Flag of Admiral Bowles--£25--G.
T. S. Reeves--Strada di son Giardino a Subraio--£4 4s.--J. Mahony.
Miss Lane Hyde--Nella Chiesa di San Maria della Fiore a Genzano vicino di Roma--£4 4s.--J. Mahony.
William Beamish (Beaumont)--Reading the News--£16--J. B. Brennan.
Penrose Robinson--Blind Fiddler--£10--D. McDonald.
J. Riordan--View of the Vallery of Groundelwald (from the descent of Sheldigg)--£5 5s.--J. Noblett.
Rev. Mr. Halburd--View of the Vallery of Lanterbruner, Cascade of the Straubach--£5 5s.--J. Noblett.
Lord Vis. Bernard, M. P.--Lady's Well, near Ahern--£20--J. Brennan.
Charles Coghlan--Sunset--£6--J. Connell.
W. [Westropp] McMullan--View on the Lee--£6--J. Connell.
J. Carmichael--Gil Blas and Banditti--£20--Geo. Hayes.
William C. Logan--Parliament Bridge--£5 5s.--R. L. Stopford.
J. Carmichael--Landscape--£8--W. Morgan.
Samuel Hodder (Ringabella)--Veneration--£15--P. Dalton.
Reuben Deaves--Scene near Capelcarrig, Carnarvonshire--3 3s.--J. H. Brocas. [Cork Examiner, January 22, 1845, p.2, col.4]
The first artist listed, George Mounsey Wheatley Atkinson, had exhibited several times with the Cork Art Union, but his work was apparently not so well received elsewhere, and Mr. Marsh, in summing up at the close of the 1845 exhibition, commiserated with Atkinson who had submitted six paintings for the RHA exhibition in Dublin, and 'after a delay of six weeks, had them returned, at great expense'. [Footnote: ibid] Atkinson, a one-time ship's carpenter, inspector of shipping and self-taught marine painter, earned a passable living depicting Cork's maritime environs. He specialised in paintings commemorating notable events in Cork Harbour; in particular the visit of Queen Victoria, which took place in 1849. Before the proceedings ended, John F. Maguire, inspired no doubt by his good fortune in winning the Atkinson painting, rose to speak on behalf of the artist:
It is a very rare thing that an artist comes to his profession with so much real knowledge suited to the peculiar branch to which he devotes himself, as Mr. Atkinson possessed when he first devoted himself to painting. For many years of his life, nay since his boyhood, he had journeyed on the great deep; he had beheld the sea in all its phases, in its terrible grandeur as in its placid beauty; to his mind every craft that floats upon the waters is familiar--he is conversant with the rig of the largest frigate, as of the smallest pilot boat, and knows every block and rope and spar that form that beautiful yet intricate symmetry so puzzling to the eye of a landsman (hear, hear). . . But what think you of the miserable encouragement given to the art and the artist in this city, when I tell you, that the artist whose works have so deservedly excited the admiration of all who have visited the Exhibition, did not realise for the last 12 months an income exceeding the wretched sum of £30? (sensation) [Ibid]
The committee for 1845 was duly elected, with Major Beamish replacing Viscount Bernard in the chair. [Cork Examiner, 19th March 1845, p. 2. col 6.] Before winding up, Maguire praised other artists in the exhibition: James Mahoney, Jane McDonnell (sic), John Connell, Samuel Skillen, James Brenan, Jun. (J. B. Brenan), and Daniel MacDonald. MacDonald at this point had been in London for almost a year, and according to a letter written by a compatriot in London, was doing very well there. He had received commissions to paint 'the Celebrated Ox of his Royal Highness Prince Albert'', as well as portraits of Princess Mary and Prince George. A second portrait of the Prince had been commissioned for the Grand Duchess of Mecklinburgh Strelitz. Orders were said to be pouring into the young painters studio 'from several of the most noble and illustrious characters in and about London'. [Cork Examiner, 28th May, 1845, p. 2. col. 7]
The notion of disposing of works of art by lottery appears to have become popular in Cork at this time. In late January 1845, the young sculptor Edward Ambrose completed an ambitious marble sculpture of a rearing horse and charioteer 'after the manner of the Greek friezes', and placed it on exhibition in the Imperial Hotel (This is possibly the sculpture which now surmounts the old St. George Steam Packet offices on Penrose Quay near the Custom House). Ambrose, who had 'long laboured at the ruder and more mechanical tasks of sculpture' was praised for demonstrating that perseverence and ambition could exist in 'the artizan class to which he has belonged'. The artist, who later that year was to enroll as a student at the Royal Academy, advertised his intention of disposing of the sculpture by means of lottery, tickets at £1 each. [Cork Examiner, January 22, 1845, p. 2, col. 4; W. G. Strickland, Vol. I, p. 6]
Also in January of that year, art lovers in Cork could visit Bolster's Bookshop in Patrick Street, to see Daniel Maclise's latest painting, brought specially over from London and depicting a scene from the third book of Gil Blas. Bolster's was the bookshop where, many years before, the young and precocious Maclise had made his famous sketch of Walter Scott; a far cry from his latest ambitious canvas, which depicted the dinner given by Arsenie to the actors and actresses of the Royal Madrid Theatre company, and showed the moment of the arrival of the poor poet Pedro de Moya to the sumptuous feast. The painting was 'adjusted' for exhibition in Mr. Bolster's back parlour. The soi-disant conoisseurs of Cork however were quite disposed to describing Maclise's latest masterpiece as 'gaudy', and their impudence aroused the Examiner to retort:
People take up the idea and carry it about, and certain sumphs, with a mighty smallness of critical phraseology, talk of the gaudiness of the colouring. . . There is nothing gaudy in McLise's picture. This artist, like every other artist pictorial or poetical, has a manner of his own. The manner is made by the genius; and his is bright-coloured, as we said before. [Footnote: Cork Examiner, January 27, 1845, p. 2, cols 2, 3]
The correspondent described at length the various details of the painting; the 'exquisite execution' of carpets, sideboards, plates, gilded lattices, porticoes and pillars, but thought that the two ladies in front were 'too blonde' for Spaniards. He understood that the painting had been purchased for £1000 and was to be engraved for Finden's Gallery of British Art. [Ibid; Strickland records a painting by Maclise entitled The Second Adventure of Gil Blas, exhibited at the RA in 1838, being engraved by J. Armytage in the Art Journal, 1858: W. G. Strickland, Vol. II, p. 75]
In March 1845, Richard Barter exhibited a wooden carving of Christ on the Cross, in McDowell's rooms at the Imperial Hotel. The carving received a good notice in the Examiner, although it was recommended that the sculptor, who was then just twenty-one years of age, should further his study of human anatomy: "We may, however, remark that the hands and arms are open to most objections. The feet appeared too attenuated, and the muscles too strongly marked." [Cork Examiner, 19th March, 1845, p. 2, col. 6.] Barter was a self-taught sculptor from Macroom in Co. Cork, who had gone to Dublin the previous year, to study at the Royal Dublin Society's School. He also exhibited three works at the RHA in 1845, and while in Dublin attracted the attention of Daniel O'Connell, who, as Strickland relates, was "delighted by the vivacity and quaint humour of his conversation" [W. G. Strickland, Vol. I, p. 46]. O'Connell wrote letters on behalf of Barter to various people in Cork, including Alderman T. Lyons and the Rev. W. O'Sullivan; and in a later edition of the Cork Examiner it was revealed that Barter had been commissioned to carve the Crucifixion for Daniel O'Connell's private chapel. O'Connell also intended to take Barter to London the following April, where the Crucificion was to be exhibited. [Cork Examiner, 31st March 1845, p. 3, col. 2] Two years later, at the RHA, Barter exhibited eight medallions and portrait busts in ivory, mainly of Dublin sitters. In 1851, from an address in Dublin, he was to exhibit at the RHA three portrait busts; the last time he showed at the Academy. Barter then spent some years in London, before returning to Cork in the early 1850's.
Also in March 1845, a 'Mr. O'Connor, Portrait Painter' placed an advertisment in the Cork Examiner announcing his arrival in Cork for a limited period, and giving the information that those "Ladies and Gentlemen desirous of possessing accurate likenesses of superior finish, from full size down to any size required, can now avail themselves of an opportunity." Mr. O'Connor (probably the Dublin portrait painter Bernard O'Connor) guaranteed success in giving 'resemblance, expression and character', and producing a finished portrait in three sittings. In addition, O'Connor offered a service renovating and restoring old paintings. His studio in Cork was at E. & W. White's, 119 Patrick Street. [Cork Examiner, 31st March 1845, p. 2, col. 1]
This vitality in the visual arts was reflected also in architecture. In 1845, Richard White, Viscount Berehaven and the future 2nd Earl of Bantry (all one and the same person), greatly enlarged and remodelled Bantry House, at Bantry Bay, in West Cork. White served as his own architect, transforming Bantry House into a virtual palace, with pilasters, balustrades and, internally, marble Corinthian columns in a great library. The house was remodelled to house White's extensive art collection, which he had amassed in his travels on the Continent, and which included Roman mosaics and Gobelins tapestries. [M. Bence-Jones, p. 31]In the entrance hallway at Bantry House are still preserved the portrait busts of Richard White and his wife, done by John Hogan when the Whites were in Italy.
The remodelling of Drishane Castle, in Millstreet, co. Cork, also began in this year. In contrast to Bantry House, Drishane was embellished with the, by now traditional, castellations, battlements and towers. [M. Bence-Jones, p. 108]
Fletchers Warehouse on
Patrick Street emerges as another venue for art exhibitions during this period.
showing there in 1846 included Alfred Elmore,
Francis Danby, who showed a painting entitled The Tempest, and George Petrie,
whose Clonmacnoise was priced at £150. [Footnote: Cork Constitution Nov.14,
1846, p.2, col.1] A lottery of five paintings by G. M. W. Atkinson also took
place at Fletchers, in May. A total of 65 tickets were to be sold, at £1
each, and the Examiner optimistically noted 'the list is being fast filled
up'. [Cork Examiner, 20th May 1846, p. 2, col. 6]
The London-based portrait painter Edward Daniel Leahy (1797-1875), whose family were originally from Cork, was commissioned to paint a portrait of Fr. Mathew in 1846. [W. G. Strickland, Vol. II, p. 14]
On November 7th, the Fr. Matthew Memorial Tower, designed by G. R. Pain, was
formally opened. An 'elegantly engraved' view of the castellated tower by artist
James Mahony was presented to Queen Victoria in honour of the occasion, according
to the Cork Constitution. A Captain Waggett had presented a large Union Jack
flag, twenty feet by fourteen feet, which was to be flown at the opening. [Cork
Constitution, 7th Nov. 1846, quoted in T. F. McNamara, p. 150]
The new Queen's College, Cork, was commenced in 1846, to the designs of Thomas Deane and Benjamin Woodward, a civil engineer who had recently joined Deane's architectural practice in Cork. The library, great hall and lecture rooms of the college were arranged informally around courtyards, or quadrangles, much in the manner of Oxford colleges, and were decorated with much stone-carving, some of it possibly by the O'Shea brothers. [M. Craig, p. 294] The College was opened three years later.
It is inconceivable that
the effects of the Potato Famine, which began to wreak such havoc in County
Cork in 1846,
would leave the world of fine arts
in the Munster capital unaffected in the years following. The sculptor James
Heffernan, who had retired from London to a cottage on the banks of the Lee,
'attacked by dysentery', died on October 21st, 1847, one of thousands who died
from fever. [W. G. Strickland, Vol. I, p. 470] Samuel Skillen, aged twenty-six,
died at his home in Patrick Street, where his two sisters carried on business
as haberdashers. Skillen had just returned to Cork from two years of travelling
in Spain and Italy, during which time he had contributed a series of letters
to the Literary Gazette. [W. G. Strickland, Vol. II, p. 357] In the Convent
of Mercy in Kinsale, looms for the manufacture of lace and muslin embroidery
were introduced, in an attempt to provide alternative sources of income for
the women of the area. The Rev. Mother Francis Bridgman supervised the setting
up of the looms, and the Board of National Education provided a teacher of
embroidery. The girls who were to learn the art of lace-making were 'bound'
as apprentices for three years. [Nellie O'Cleirigh "Limerick Lace"GPA
Irish Arts Review Yearbook1988, p.112]
The effects of the Famine were particularly acute in West Cork, and the distress of the starving people inspired a number of Cork artists to tackle this horrific subject in their paintings. In July 1847 a painting by Richard Lyster was exhibited at Fletchers in Patrick Street. The title of the painting was Sheep Stealing, and it is described in some detail in the Constitution of the day:
The principal figure is a gaunt countryman, whose wife is in an attitude of entreaty, evidently beseeching him to restore the stolen animal to its owner, while he seems the victim of contending emotions. A hound is eagerly watching the carcass of the animal. In the background is an aged woman holding in her lap a dead or dying child. Whilst unmistakeable symptoms of wretchedness and want are strewn around.
[Cork Constitution, 24th July 1847, p. 2, col. 3; Lyster also exhibited at
this time a large cartoon in Indian ink representing the trial scene from the
Merchant of Venice] Lyster had been born in Cork--his birth date is not recorded--and
after a period of apprenticeship in the office of an official assignee named
Murphy, had travelled to Italy for five years, to study art. Invalided with
malaria, Lyster returned to live and work in Cork. He exhibited in Cork several
times in the next two decades, and also at the RHA, from 1854 to 1862. He died
in August 1863. [W. G. Strickland, Vol. II, p. 40] Another Cork artist whose
work was influenced by the horrors of the Famine was Daniel MacDonald, who
had moved to London only two years previously. He exhibited, at the British
Institution in 1847, a painting entitled An Irish Peasant Family Discovering
the Blight of their Store. [W. G. Strickland, Vol. II, p. 57. Strickland gives
the measurements of the painting as 3' 5'' by 4' 4'']
The landscape and portrait artist William Roe, with an address at 78 Grand Parade, Cork, sent a painting entitled Bogwood Sellers to the annual exhibition of the RHA. This was the second time that Roe, who had trained at the Royal Dublin Society's Schools in the mid-1820's, had exhibited at the Academy since his arrival in Cork in 1835. Strickland describes Roe as 'a clever delineator of scenes of Irish life' who excelled in correct and delicate pencil drawings. [A. Stewart, Vol. III, p. 115; W. G. Strickland, Vol. II, pp. 297-8. A number of pencil sketches by Roe of views of Cork and its environs, dating from the late 1830's, were in the collection of Count Plunkett in 1913]
Another Cork painter, R. F. Nagle, about whom nothing else is known, also exhibited a Composition at the RHA that year. [A. Stewart, Vol. III, p. 1]
In July, Edward Ambrose exhibited at Marsh's Rooms on the South Mall a mural
monument which was to be erected in the Parish Church at Bandon, to the memory
of the Rev. Dr. McSweeny, late parish priest of that town. [Cork Constitution
17th July 1847, p. 2, col. 3]
A portrait of Daniel O'Connell, by Cork artist John Minton Connell, was engraved by Le Blond and published by J. C. Brien in Cork in 1847. [W. G. Strickland, Vol. I, p. 202]
A resolution of the Cork Literary and Scientific Society, passed on the 4th March 1847, is of interest in relation to the eventual founding of a Government School of Design in Cork: "Resolved - That the Society do petition the Irish Government to establish a School of Design in Cork, and that the secretary, treasurer, and Mr. F. Jennings be requested to draw up the same; and that Sir Robert Kane be requested to convey the petition to the Government." [W.F.Allman, "The Cork Literary and Scientific Society", Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society, Vol.1, 1895, pp.463-470]
The maritime artist George Mounsey Wheatley Atkinson, who had shown regularly at the Art Union's exhibitions since its establishment in 1841, also exhibited frequently at Fletcher's warehouses in Patrick Street. Like Ambrose, Atkinson was obviously encouraged with the success of the Art Union ballots, and decided to try his own hand at organising such a draw. A ballot of paintings by Atkinson, held at Fletchers in 1848, attracted a good deal of attention, with one hundred subscribers paying one guinea each for tickets. Two young girls from the blind asylum were employed to draw the tickets from the urn, while the High Sherriff of Cork, Mr. T.S. Reeves, supervised the proceedings. [Footnote: Cork Constitution May 18, 1848, p.4, col.2]. The Cork Examiner gave the result of the ballot:
No.1.- Coast View near Kinsale - alloted to John De Courcey Beamish, Esq.,
No.2.- Stormy Moonlight; destruction of the The Droits de L'Homme, 1797, to William Hickey, Esq., Janemount.
No.3.- Calm Moon Light, with Brig Ashore,- to George Tolerton, Patrick-Street.
No.4.- Sun Setting Composition,- to John Fitzpatrick, Patrick-Street.
No.5.- First Gleam of Hope,- to Jas. M. Conway.
No.6.- Moon Light Fishing Scene,- to Samuel P. Townsend, Esq., Killora.
It is a curious fact, that not one of the fortunate parties was present at the drawing. [Footnote: Cork Examiner, May 17, 1848, p.4, Col.2]
The Literary and Scientific
Society had not been the only voice calling for the establishment of a Government
School of Design in Cork. In 1849 a group
of leading citizens in Cork, including Horace Townsend, Col. Ludlow Beamish,
Sir Thomas Deane, R. O'Callaghan Newenham and the Dean and Archdeacon of the
city, appealed to the Board of Trade for the establishment of a School. The
Secretary of the Cork Committee was Mr. W. Keleher, and, as a result of his
efforts, Charles Heath Wilson was sent over from the Central School at Somerset
House in London, to discuss the opening of a School in Cork. Wilson had been
appointed Director at Somerset House in 1843. He was not a popular figure with
the students, due to the strict regime he instituted, and staff relations also
deteriorated somewhat during his term there, to the point where in one notorious
incident he accused his Figure Master of being a liar and a scoundrel; the
Figure Master in turn accusing him of being a snob: and all this in front of
the students, who rallied to the support of the Figure Master, and were expelled.
After a series of further altercations, and several reports by committees,
Wilson was 'edged out, not very happily, to look after the regional schools
of design' [Frayling, p.28], which is how he found himself in Cork, advising
the leading citizens of the town on how they might best set up such a school.
[Cork Examiner April 3rd, 1848, p. 3, col. 2] Wilson pointed out that, in line
with the other regional schools which had been set up, before a government
grant could be given, an equal amount would have to be raised locally. ['Cn', "Gleanings
on Old Cork Artists", Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological
Society, Vol. VI, 1900, pp.174-182]
So, a deputation of gentlemen was dispatched off to the Corporation of Cork, to ask for a grant of £200 per annum. The deputation was 'received with the greatest enthusiasm' and the required sum was unanimously voted. The Directors of the Institution then 'cheerfully expended' £500 on the renovation of the Institution's building and its transformation into a School of Design. The committee nominated to run the School included James Roche as President, Horace Townsend, Sir William Lyons, Alderman Dowden, Alderman Roche, Wm. C. Logan, F. M. Jennings and the Archdeacon of Cork, Very Rev. M. B. O'Shea. Mr. Keleher was appointed Secretary, but unfortunately died soon after. He was replaced by Thomas S. Dunscombe, appointed in November 1849. [Cork Constitution, December 25th 1849, p. 1, col. 3]
The previous year, the
managers of the Royal Cork Institution had agreed to a proposal by Sir Thomas
that the proposed School of Design would lease
the upper floor of their building 'at a rent of £80 per annum.' Indeed,
at a meeting held on June 25th 1849, the Institution even agreed to sell off
part of its stock in order to raise funds for renovating these upper floors.
[Cork Constitution, June 26th 1849, p. 4, col. 4] At this meeting, Deane spoke
about the overall plan of the Government in establishing schools of design,
and the advantages of having such a school in Cork. The financial outlay of £500
on the part of the Institution would be recouped by charging the School of
Design an annual rent of £80. The Government had agreed to give a yearly
grant of £500, and the Corporation was to add to this an annual grant
of £200 towards the running of the School.
The Institution's building was obviously in need of urgent renovation at this point, as one speaker (Mr. Jennings) made the point that irrespective of the security on their investment, it should be made 'under any circumstances' to save the building from destruction. It was emphasised that the School would be a tenant of the building, and would have no control over the Library, which was also housed there. [Cork Constitution, June 26th 1849, p. 4, col. 4]
On July 7th, the Privy Council for Trade in London agreed to the plans for setting up the Cork School of Design and approved the proposed renovation of upper floors of the Royal Cork Institution. Sir Thomas Deane was requested to prepare specifications for the works 'as speedily as possible' so that no time would be lost in carrying out the work. [Cork Constitution, July 12th 1849, p. 2, col. 2]
Cork was only one of a
large number of towns and cities in Great Britain who were striving in the
1840's to establish
local Schools of Design. The Royal
College of Art in London, nowadays one of Britain's most important art colleges,
is also the oldest surviving British School of Design, having been established
at Somerset House in 1837. This first 'Central School' was followed by other
'branch schools', including Cork. The fact that a design school system predated
any other national educational network illustrates the importance attached
to art and design education in official circles at that time. However, it should
not be assumed that this interest in art stemmed from the inner convictions
of government officials; it actually resulted more from a recognition of the
importance of the design school systems established in France and Bavaria.
The relative success of the French textile industry was seen by some British
politicians, and the radical M.P. Joseph Hume in particular, as due to the
quality of teaching at the Lyons school of design. Britain was horrified at
the thought of its own textile industry being decimated by competition from
France. A Select Committee had been set up by the House of Commons in 1835
to examine the matter and in its second report commented on the success of
the eighty or so Schools of Design in France, and on the importance of creating
a similiar alliance between the Arts and Manufactures in Britain. [Footnote:
Christopher Frayling, The Royal College of Art: One Hundred and Fifty Years
of Art and Design, (London: Barrie & Jenkins, 1987), pp. 12-14] It was
this report, published in 1836, that resulted in the swing away from Mechanics
Institutes, and the concentration of government attention on the establishment
of Schools of Design in different towns and cities. In 1842, an application
from a privately maintained school in Manchester to be nominated a Government
School of Design was accepted, as were subsequent applications from Coventry,
Norwich and Birmingham, provided these towns were able to provide half the
running costs of the schools. Students from the original School at Somerset
House were eventually to be appointed masters at Sheffield, York, Nottingham
and Manchester. The first headmaster of the School established in Cork was
William Willes, who had also studied at Somerset House. Christopher Frayling,
in his history of the Royal College of Art, describes Somerset House and its
dependants at this point as resembling 'a spider with its geometric web stretching
across the country'. In the years after 1840, that web was to extend across
the Irish Sea. [Footnote: Ibid, p. 21]
A Government School of Design was also established in Dublin in 1849, when the Board of Trade took over the funding of the Royal Dublin Society's long-established art school. The rival Royal Hibernian Academy was rightly concerned that this would result in the demise of their own schools, but were unsuccessful in securing government support. Five years later, control of the RDS School of Design was given to the Science and Art Department, headed by Henry Cole. [John Turpin "The RHA Schools 1826-1906" The Irish Arts Review Yearbook 1991-1992, p. 199]
Queen Victoria visited Cork briefly in August 1849. In honour of the event,
George Mounsey Wheatley Atkinson mounted an exhibition of his maritime paintings
in a pavilion in Cove (Cobh), constructed specially for the Royal visit. The
artist responded with enthusiasm to the visit, producing several different
paintings of Royal Squadron in the harbour and the landing of Queen Victoria
and Prince Albert at the town of Cove itself, which was renamed Queenstown
in honour of the event.
Apart from a lithograph based on a drawing by one of the ship's officers (published in aid of the Female Orphan Asylum in Cork), and some wood engravings in the Illustrated London News, Atkinson's paintings appear to be the only visual record of this visit to have survived.
The Royal Squadron arrived as night was falling, and correspondents described the harbour illuminated by fireworks and bonfires, as well as by blue lights strung along the yardarms of the ships. Atkinson was to paint this scene, in a work entitled The Arrival of the Royal Squadron, on 2nd August, with display of Blue Lights &c. which he exhibited in 1850 at Fletcher's Gallery. This painting, along with several others depicting the Royal Visit, was disposed of in 'A Grand Ballot of five Splendid Marine Paintings by Atkinson'.[Cork Examiner July 19, 1850, p. 3, col. 3]
Throughout the following morning, the harbour was busy with steamers and yachts. Atkinson recorded the scene in a painting (now in a private collection) of the Royal Yacht at its moorings. This is probably the same work entitled The Royal Yacht previous to her Majesty landing which was included in another 'Grand Ballot of 12 Splendid Oil Paintings' held in 1855 (q.v.), at William Marsh's sales rooms on the South Mall.
The actual landing of the Royal party at Cove was recorded by Atkinson in
yet another large painting which is now in the offices of the Cork Harbour
Commissioners, The Visit of Queen Victoria to Cove. A second version of this
painting is preserved in Cobh Museum and it is likely that the artist produced
other versions. The two versions differ little save that the Cobh Museum painting
has more square-rigged warships in the background, with sailors standing along
the yard-arms. In both paintings Atkinson again chooses a distant viewpoint,
in order to include shipping and a panoramic view of the town of Cove and Great
Island. In the middle distance is the pavilion which was specially erected
for the reception. The Royal party are shown going ashore to the pavilion,
where the ceremony of renaming the town of Cove was to take place. Atkinson's
painting of this event was later lithographed and published by W. Scraggs of
Cork. [W. G. Strickland, Vol. I, p. 15]
The Royal party then proceeded up the river Lee to Cork city, where three balloons, constructed by Mr. Hampton, were inflated and sent aloft, bearing the words "Victoria", "Albert" and "Prince of Wales". Mr. Fletcher of Patrick Street (who was later to organise the ballots of Atkinson's paintings) had draped the entire side of the Cork Custom House facing the river, including the customs sheds, with scarlet cloth, embellished with gold shamrocks, roses and thistles. A pavilion for 400 'beautiful and fashionably attired' ladies, with a scarlet awning, had been constructed on the quay where the "Fairy" was to dock. Over its entrance, flanked by grecian urns on pedestals bearing the golden initials V & A resting on 'true lovers' knots', was a gold crown with the words "Ceade Mille Failtha".
A procession of carraiges took the Royal party on a tour of the city. On Grand Parade, a lofty arch draped with cloth had been erected, and another in Great George's Street, this time in a Gothic style. The carraiges then continued on to the recently-constructed Queens College, where a statue of Queen Victoria, presented to the University by the architect Sir Thomas Deane, was ceremonially placed in position by him and the builder Mr. John Butler, as the Queen was passing. The Royal visit lasted only a matter of hours; before evening fell again, the Royal Squadron was steaming out of Cork harbour, bound for Dublin.
Strickland records an amateur landscape painter Henry Morgan, a native of Cork, producing a set of twenty-eight lithographed views of Cork Harbour and the river Lee in 1849. The lithographs, which had been drawn on stone by Morgan 'from nature', measured 15 inches by 11 inches each, and were published in Exeter. [W. G. Strickland, Vol. II, p. 128] (The only record of Morgan exhibiting is at the Cork Exhibition of 1852, where he was listed as an amateur artist.)
The exact mid-point of the nineteenth century was a critical year for art education and the history of the art collection in Cork. The Cork Examiner of January 4th 1850 announced that the new Cork School of Design would be open 'for the reception of Pupils' on Tuesday, January 8th 1850, when the Secretary, Thomas S. Dunscombe, would be in attendance to receive fees and register the names of students. [Cork Examiner, 4th January 1850, p.1, col. 6] The formal opening of the School took place three days later, on January 7th, with the Lord Mayor, Mr. Shea, officiating. "From noon until one o'clock the visitors promenaded the Museum Rooms, Library, East Rooms, Drawing Rooms, &c and at that hour the Lecture Theatre was thrown open and immediately filled". Amongst those who crowded into the lecture theatre were Viscount Bernard, William Fagan M. P., Colonel Chatterton, Sir Thomas Deane, Sir William and Lady Lyons and Horace Townsend. The headmaster of the new School of Design, William Willes, then delivered a 'voluminous but exceedingly detailed' address on the importance of such schools. James Roche, President of the School committee, promised the assembly that the sculpture cast room would be open to the public for viewing each afternoon. Roche was followed as speaker by Sir Thomas Deane, who presented a bust of his 'beloved and departed' father-in-law' (Newenham), as a stimulus to others to do likewise. [Cork Constitution, January 8th 1850, p. 2, col. 4] Deane had very specific notions of the role of the new school:
For forty years he (Sir T. D.) was acquainted with the tradesmen of this city, who laboured under the great disadvantage in the want of a School of taste, though no more naturally talented men could be found anywhere. He recollected when the Cork Court Houses were building, and that terra cotta capitals were brought over for the portico columns, a jealousy sprung up amongst the masons, who insisted that they ought to be stone, but the answer was that no one in Cork could be got to chisel them. They besought a trial, and one of the imposed capitals was given to them, and immediately all the apprentice boys of Cork were copying and in six weeks the public was presented with the fine Corinthian capitals which now adorned the building. (Hear, hear). [Ibid.]
Deane cited the experience
of Belfast, which was obliged to spend £20,000
a year in England for lithographed paper-wrappers in which to make up its linens
for market, and pointed to the successful embroidery school which had been
set up in Cork to help relieve the distress caused to many women by the potato
famine. (This embroidery school had been set up by Mrs. Sainthill and Mrs.
Paul McSwiney). Deane spoke of fifty families being supported in Cork through
the production of fabric which imitated point lace. Other speakers put forward
similiar arguments in favour of the new School as the enthusiastic inaugural
meeting drew to a close.
After several days of operation, the Cork Constitution reported that about one hundred students were attending the new School of Design. A separate morning class had been established 'for the ladies', and this was attended by sixteen students, all engaged in the first division of the Government lessons--"Drawing outline from the flat". [Ibid.]
The Cork School of Design's operations were observed and commented upon with interest. Within a short time of its opening, the number of students had risen to two hundred, a large number of them female. There were thirty-eight free students. The fees for the general classes were initially five shillings a quarter; twice that for 'Separate Classes'. The lectures on art given by Mr. W. V. Minas were highly popular. Amongst the students at this time were John J. Drummond (who later became Master of the School of Art at Bath) and John Fergus O'Hea, both of whom, according to Michael Holland, were to achieve distinction as cartoonists and illustrators. [Michael Holland "Culture and Customs: A Cork Miscellany" JCHAS, Vol. XLVII, Jan-June 1943, p. 101] A government inspector, Mr. Poynter, visited the school in June, and pronounced himself entirely satisfied with progress. (As a result of Poynter's report to the Board of Trade, the annual grant of the School of Design was increased from £200 to £500.)
In July of 1850 the Cork School of Design closed for the summer vacation, after a tremendously successful first six months' operation. There were many optimistic predictions for the future development of the Fine Arts in Cork, and for the emergence of a generation of artisans who had been educated to a high standard and who had developed an awareness of the canons of design which were, at that time, taken as a standard. The majority of the pupils at the School of Design were from the 'artisan and mechanic' classes, and it was perceived as a fundamental role of the School that the various trades and crafts operating in Cork would benefit directly from the 'cheap and valuable' art education enjoyed by their members " . . .correcting that want of taste and elegance of finish which has been well pointed out as a principal cause of the deplorably backward and languishing condition of several local trades." [Cork Constitution July 11th 1850, p. 2, col. 4]
Alongside the teaching role of the new School of Design, the formation of
a permanent art collection was also seen as a priority. The Constitution of
January 8th 1850 reported that James Heffernan's sculpture group The Distressed
Mother, presented by the sculptor's widow, had been placed on exhibition in
the School. (Crawford collection, Cat. No. 721; this work is also known as
the Deserted Mother)
While there is ample evidence that the Vatican sculpture casts had been publicly exhibited since their arrival in Cork in 1818, which year can therefore be taken to constitute the true birth of Cork's art gallery, it was really with the formation by Willes in 1850, of a 'memorial-room' for the exhibition of works by Cork artists, that the deliberate foundation of a civic art collection for the city may be dated. Apart from Heffernan, the artists Barry and Forde were represented in this small art collection. The Royal Cork Institution presented the new School of Design with two other works by James Heffernan, which they had received from the sculptor's widow; Susannah at the Bath and Mother and Child (Cat. Nos. 720, 719). [Cork Examiner, 15th July 1850, p. 3, col. 5; Soirle MacCana, 1953 Catalogue of the Crawford Gallery, p. 10] Heffernan's three sculptures may still be seen today in the Crawford Art Gallery; however, an important Classical sculpture presented to the Cork School that same year is now lost. This was a white marble head 'of the ancient Greek school', which had been recovered from the ruins of Herculaneum and purchased by the Earl of Bristol and Bishop of Derry, who presented it to James Roche, who in turn presented it to the School of Design in Cork. [Cork Constitution, May 2nd 1850, p. 2, col. 4]
By October 7th 1850, the art collection had grown to include a full-length figure of the classical sculpture The Fighting Gladiator (Cat. No. 879), as well as sketches by Nathaniel Grogan Senior, and portraits and sketches by Samuel Forde. All of these had been presented by headmaster William Willes, while Alderman Dowden gave a volume of engravings entitled Urbis Romae Insigniores Statuarum Icones, and Alderman Roche, 'Aqua-tints by Grogan' (which are now lost). The Corporation of Cork entrusted to the care of the School of Design a portrait of King George II ascribed to Sir Godfrey Kneller (this is probably an erroneous identification; the Crawford Gallery does possess a portrait which can be attributed to Kneller, but the sitter is not identified, although Cat. No. 336) and Sir Thomas Deane presented a bust of his late father-in-law Robert O'Callaghan Newenham. [Cork Constitution, October 17th, 1850, p. 1, col. 4]
The Rev. C. B. Gibson, in his 1861 History of the Country and City of Cork, gives a concise and elegant account of the Institution and School of Design:
The building now known
as the Royal Cork Institution was erected in 1724 as the Cork custom House,
and was not
made over for the use of the Institution
till 1832. The establishment of this literary society is owing to the exertions
of the Rev. Dr. Hincks, a Presbyterian clergyman, of Prince's Street, who began
by delivering lectures, in his own house, on scientific subjects. The society
was incorporated by charter in 1807. It received an annual parliamentary grant
of £2000, which was afterwards increased to £2500. This grant was
discontinued in 1831. In 1832 the present building came into the possession
of this body.
The Royal Cork Institution consists of a library, containing 12,000 volumes, principally scientific works; a museum, a lecture room, and a reading room. It is the property of a number of proprietors, who paid thirty guineas each. Its affairs are managed by a committee. . . .
The number of pupils, now in attendance, is about 160. Of this number about 60 are females. The charge of attendance is but ten shillings a-quarter, for instruction on three days in the week. The government pay a portion of the teacher's salary, and give prizes, busts and sketches, but the aid is not commensurate with the object. The School of Design contains some creditable specimens of the industry and ability of the pupils in a department where Corkmen have gained undying fame. Here are engravings of the six allegorical frescoes, painted by James Barry, in 1777-83, on the walls of the Adelphi, or Society of Arts, in John Street, London . . .
Both the Royal Cork Institution and the School of Design are in every way worthy of public support and royal patronage. The corporation of Cork would be doing good service to these institutions, and to the Cork Athenaeum, by removing the ugly bulk of houses, and the soap boiler's establishment from Academy Street, which makes the natural approach. Has Cork no men of sufficient wealth, or public spirit, or literary taste, to come forward and place these institutions in a position worthy of their pure and noble objects? [Rev. C. B. Gibson, The History of the County and City of Cork, Vol.II, (Cork: 18 , reprinted 1974), pp 318-321]
The first principal of the School of Design was William Willes, appointed in September 1849, who was assisted by a Second Master, J. P. Knight. According to Strickland, Willes had been born in Cork, the son of an apothecary, and had studied painting under Nathaniel Grogan, although he did not take up painting seriously until his thirtieth year. He was involved in the organisation of the First Munster Exhibition in 1815, where he exhibited eight paintings, and afterwards studied at the Royal Academy, at Somerset House. The exhibition catalogues of the Cork Society of Arts from 1817 to 1822 all list 'William Willes, London' as an honorary member, although he is not listed as an exhibitor. Willes did however exhibit at the RA and at the British Institution from 1820 onwards, before ill-health caused him to return to Cork in 1823. His best painting was said to be The Mock Funeral. [John Francis Maguire, The Industrial Movement in Ireland, 1853, quoted in Cn's "Gleaning on Old Cork Artists" JCHAS Vol. VI, 1900, p. 104ff] He was to spend further time in London around 1829, and also exhibited at the RHA between 1843 and 1849, before being appointed headmaster of the new school of design in his native city. Strickland comments on his role at the Cork School of Design:
A clever and accomplished man, the school owed most its success to his zeal and indefatigable labours, and to the enthusiasm he inspired in his pupils; and his local connection and popularity helped him to promote the objects of the school. He held the position for only a short time; his health failed, and after a prolonged illness he died in January, 1851. [W. G. Strickland, Vol.2, p. 532]
Willes was succeeded by the painter Robert Richard Scanlan, appointed master in 1853. Scanlan, who specialised in animal and genre paintings, was destined to remain in Cork for less than a year, as the temporary closure of the School of Design in 1854 prompted his return to London. [W. G. Strickland, Vol. II, p. 324]
A graphic description of the Cork School of Design during this period is given by the Cork historian Michael Holland, in an article published in the Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society:
A School of Design was established in 1850 under the auspices of the Cork
Institution, whose premises were then in a dilapidated state. The entrance
was through a doorway on the southern side of Nelson's Place: A staircase required
cautious negotiation to the first floor and the headmaster's room.
This apartment, used as a library, had a curious clock, presented by Ben Deeble; its dial had one hand indicating both the hour and minute. On the chimney-piece was a pencil portrait of Charles Dickens, one of several made of the artist when he visited and lectured in Cork. The collection of books included manuals by David Cox, John Varley and Rowbotham, founders of the Water-colour School, illustrations being reproduced in coloured lithography--a beautiful medium of that time. The school was administered by a committee composed of President, Vice-President and seven Members; a Treasurer and Secretary; a Headmaster and Second Master. Morning classes were from 10 to 1 o'clock; evening classes from 6.30 to 9.30 p.m.
The original purpose of the schools of design was to educate original designers--not mere copyists or rule and compass draughtsmen. The branches of instruction were: ornament--outline drawing from the flat and round, shading, painting and modelling; geometrical and perspective drawing; drawing, painting and modelling figures from the cast; painting in water-colours, tempera and oil; plants, fruits and flowers drawn, painted or modelled from nature; and composition as applied to design. [Michael Holland, "Culture and Customs: a Cork Miscellany", The Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society, Vol. XLVII, Jan.-June 1943, pp. 99-105]
(The clock Holland refers to was probably made by Richard Deeble, a clock-maker working in Cork in 1709, or one of his descendants.)
The School of Design rapidly became one of the showpieces of the city. In September of the year following, the School was graced with a visit by Mrs. Lawrence, the wife of the American Ambassador, and her daughter, who pronounced themselves 'highly gratified'. [Cork Examiner, 25th September 1851, p. 2, col. 7]
Although the School of Design monopolised the attention of the art world in Cork and further afield in 1850, other artists continued to paint, sculpt and exhibit. In July, John Fletcher begged to announce to the 'Patrons of Native Talent' a Grand Ballot of five splendid marine paintings by Atkinson. The Cork Examiner gave a detailed list of the paintings:
No.1- The Landing of Her Majesty at Queenstown, Augt. 3d, 1849.
No.2- Queenstown Illuminated as it appeared on the night of the 3d Augt.
No.3- The Arrival of the Royal Squadron, on 2nd Augt. with display of Blue Lights, &c.
No.4- Frigate beating out of Cork Harbour.
No.5- Stormy Sunset--Frigate Ashore [Cork Examiner July 19th 1850, p.1, col. 4; see also Cork Constitution July 23rd 1850, p. 3, col. 3: There are at least two versions of the Arrival of Queen Victoria to Queenstown surviving, one the property of Cork Museum, presently on loan to the Cork Harbour Commissioners; the other in Cobh Museum; the Arrival of the Royal Squadron in Cork Harbour is presently in a private collection in Cork, and was exhibited at the Crawford Gallery in July 1989]
The results of the ballot are not known. Also at Fletchers in April of that year, Michelangelo Hayes exhibited his painting Wayside Courtesy, of which engravings had been made for distribution to the subscribers to the Art Union of Ireland. This watercolour painting was described as exhibiting 'the genuine kindliness and unaffected politeness' of the Irish peasantry, and it is likely that its choice as a subject for engraving was prompted by the recent Young Ireland rising in Munster: