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Portrait of Robert Percy ffrench of Monivea
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Portrait of Robert Percy ffrench of Monivea
Irish School
Oil on canvas
140 X 87cm


Acquired c.1940


Henry Jones Thaddeus
Irish School

Thaddeus's autobiography "Recollections of a Court Painter", published in 1912, gives a lively account of student days in Paris and Brittany, travels in Italy and North Africa, and his career as portrait painter in Rome and London. He enjoyed mixing with the aristocracy of Europe, and painting cardinals and popes. He was born Harry Thaddeus Jones in Cork in 1859, (later, c.1884-85, assuming his Christian name of Thaddeus as his surname). He entered the School of Art in Cork, little more than a child, in 1870:-           

"A ramshackle, tumble-down building, with a pathetic notice at the head of its staircase imploring students not to jump or run down in a body, as the steps would give way; such was the Cork School of Art, when as a boy of ten, in the year of grace 1870, I crossed its well-worn threshold and was initiated into the mysteries of elementary art."

The headmaster at the school was James Brenan. Thaddeus drew freehand, then studied from the Vatican casts. He claims (if he is to be believed) that at the age of fourteen he was appointed assistant master. In c.1879 he went to London and studied at Heatherley's studio. He won a Taylor prize of £15 in 1879 and £50 scholarship in 1880.

In October 1880 he departed for France, studying at the Academie Julian under Boulanger and Lefebvre. While still a student his painting 'The Wounded Poacher' was accepted at the Paris Salon in 1881, and highly-praised there. Thaddeus and fellow-students departed for Brittany in summer to 'paint from nature'. They stayed briefly at the picturesque village and artists' colony Pont-Aven, then settled at Concarneau "that paradise of painters". A severe smallpox epidemic devastated the town, but Thaddeus stayed on over Winter. His large Breton canvas 'Jour de Marche, Finistere' was exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1882, then in Cork. (This painting and 'The Wounded Poacher' were recently acquired by the National Gallery of Ireland).
He met French writers Edmond de Goncourt and Alphonse Daudet in Paris, and painted landscapes at Moret-sur-Loing, near the Forest of Fontainbleau.

Thaddeus departed for Italy in September 1882 to study early Florentine art. He remained in Florence for eighteen months, studying, beginning his career as a portraitist, and taking some pupils (eg. Walter Savage Landor). He enjoyed mixing with the royalty and aristocracy of Europe eg: the Duke and Duchess of Teck, Princess Catherine of Wurtemberg, Countess of Tallyrand, Lady Orford (head of the English Colony) and Mr. and Mrs. Gladstone. (Portraits of the Tecks were shown at the RA in 1884, and of Gladstone purchased by the Reform Club for 500 guineas).

Thaddeus married and his wife gave birth to two sons, Frederick Francis and Victor. In Spring 1885 he moved to Cannes on the invitation of the Grand Duke of Mecklenburg. He witnessed the worst-ever train disaster in France at the Monte Carlo Tunnel, then the earthquake in Nice, in which many were killed. He fled to Algeria, but behaved tactlessly during the strict Muslim observation of Ramadan. In Winter 1885 Thaddeus was living in Rome, mixing in Roman high society, and painting portraits of Pope Leo XIII, aged seventy-five, and 'the Black Pope', Father Arderledy, General of the Jesuits. His portrait of the Pope was shown at the Grosvenor Gallery in 1886, and a portrait and two views of Venice at the RHA. Thaddeus was based in London, with studios at South Kensington and later at Maddox Street. He met poet Robert Browning, and did portraits of Michael Davitt and John Redmond.

He spent a winter in Morocco with traveller Paul du Chaillu, and in 1889 visited Egypt, observing the exotic and colourful life of the Orient. He exhibited regularly at the RHA 1890-1902: portraits, subject pictures (eg: 'An Irish Eviction' and 'Origin of the Harp' and North African scenes. He continued to travel, eg: to Corsica, Hamburg, and in October 1901 by steamer to Ceylon and Australia. He also made return visits to Rome and Naples, and painted Pope Pius X in 1903 (Crawford Art Gallery Collection). He presented a portrait to the Crawford Gallery in 1920, and hoped:-

"for a closer association in the future not only with the art life of his native city, but with that of a regenerated nation."

Thaddeus died in 1929.


Recollections of a Court Painter H. Jones Thaddeus, London 1912
The Irish Impressionists National Gallery of Ireland. Catalogue by Julian Campbell

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