seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA

Birth of Sculptor Jerome Connor

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jerome-connorJerome Connor, recognized world-class Irish sculptor, is born on February 23, 1874 in Coumduff, Annascaul, County Kerry.

In 1888, Connor emigrates to Holyoke, Massachusetts. His father is a stonemason, which leads to Connor’s jobs in New York as a sign painter, stonecutter, bronze founder and machinist. Inspired by his father’s work and his own experience, he would steal his father’s chisels as a child and carve figures into rocks.

It is believed Connor possibly assisted in the manufacture of bronzes such as the Civil War monument in Town Green in South Hadley, Massachusetts erected in 1896 and The Court of Neptune Fountain at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., completed in 1898.

Connor joins the Roycroft arts community in 1899 where he assists with blacksmithing and later starts creating terracotta busts and reliefs. Eventually he is recognized as Roycroft’s sculptor-in-residence.

After four years at Roycroft, Connor then works with Gustav Stickley and becomes well known as a sculptor being commissioned to create civic commissions in bronze for placement in Washington, D.C., Syracuse, East Aurora, New York, San Francisco, and in his native Ireland. In 1910, he establishes his own studio in Washington, D.C. From 1902 until his death, he produces scores of designs ranging from small portrait heads to relief panels to large civic commissions realized in bronze.

Connor is a self-taught artist who is highly regarded in the United States where most of his public works can be seen. He appears to be heavily influenced by the work of Irish American sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens. He uses the human figure to give expression to emotions, values and ideals. Many of the commissions he receives are for civic memorials and secular figures which he casts in bronze, a pronounced departure from the Irish tradition of stone carved, church sponsored works.

Connor’s best known work is Nuns of the Battlefield located at the intersection of Rhode Island Avenue NW, M Street and Connecticut Avenue NW in Washington, D.C. It serves as a tribute to the over six hundreds nuns who nursed soldiers of both armies during the American Civil War, and is one of two monuments in the District that represent women’s roles in the Civil War. The sculpture is authorized by the United States Congress on March 29, 1918 with the agreement that the government will not fund it. The Ancient Order of Hibernians raises $50,000 for the project and Connor is selected since he focuses on Irish Catholic themes, being one himself. Connor, however, ends up suing the Order for nonpayment.

Connor works in the United States until 1925 at which time he moves to Dublin and opens his own studio but suffers from lack of financial support and patrons. In 1926 he is contacted by Roycroft and asked to design and cast a statue of Elbert Hubbard who, with his wife Alice, had died in the sinking of the RMS Lusitania. It is unveiled in 1930 and today stands on the lawn of East Aurora’s Middle School across the street from the Roycroft Chapel building.

While working on the Hubbard statue, Connor receives a commission to create a memorial for all the RMS Lusitania victims. It is to be erected in Cobh, County Cork where many of the victims are buried. The project is initiated by the New York Memorial Committee, headed by William Henry Vanderbilt whose father, Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt, perished on the RMS Lusitania. He dies before the memorial is completed and based on Connor’s design its installation falls to another Irish artist.

Jerome Connor dies on August 21, 1943 of heart failure and reputably in poverty. There is a now a “Jerome Connor Place” in Dublin and around the corner there is a plaque in his honour on Infirmary Road, overlooking Dublin’s Phoenix Park, his favourite place.

Author: Jim Doyle

As a descendant of Joshua Doyle (b. 1775, Dublin, Ireland), I have a strong interest in Irish culture and history, which is the primary focus of this site. I am a Network Engineer at The Computer Hut, LLC, which is my salaried job. I am a member of the Irish Cultural Society of Arkansas, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization (2010-Present, President 2011-2017). I have also served on the City of Little Rock Arts+Culture Commission (2015-2020, Chairman 2017-2018) and the Walnut Valley Property Owners Association board (2015-2020, Secretary 2017-2020).

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