seamus dubhghaill

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


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Birth of John Wilson Croker, Statesman & Author

John Wilson Croker, Irish stateman and author noted for his critical severity as a reviewer and for his rigid Tory principles, is born in Galway, County Galway on December 20, 1780.

Croker is the only son of John Croker, the surveyor general of customs and excise in Ireland. He is educated at Trinity College, Dublin, where he graduates in 1800. Immediately afterwards he enters Lincoln’s Inn and, in 1802, he is called to the Irish bar.

Croker enters the Parliament of the United Kingdom in 1808 as member for Downpatrick, obtaining the seat on petition, though he had been unsuccessful at the poll. In 1810 he is appointed to the office of First Secretary to the Admiralty, which he holds without interruption under various administrations for more than twenty years. From the beginning he has the backing of Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, and the friendship continues between them until Wellesley’s death in 1852.

Strongly opposed to the Representation of the People Act 1832, Croker resigns from Parliament when it is passed, though he continues thereafter his close contacts with Tory leaders. From about this period there begins a lifelong antagonism between Croker and Thomas Babington Macaulay, 1st Baron Macaulay, a major champion of the Reform Bill and Whiggism.

From 1831 to 1854 Croker is one of the chief writers for the Quarterly Review, to which he contributes about 270 articles on a variety of subjects. His literary tastes are largely those of the 18th century, as may be seen from his severe criticism of John Keats’s Endymion, Alfred Tennyson’s Poems of 1832, and of course the first two volumes of Macaulay’s The History of England from the Accession of James the Second (1848). For some years before his death he accumulates material for an annotated edition of Alexander Pope’s works. This is passed to Whitwell Elwin, who begins the edition later completed by William John Courthope. Croker also edits the collected letters or memoirs of various 18th-century figures.

Croker dies at the age of 76 on August 10, 1857 at St. Albans Bank, Hampton.

(Pictured: Portrait of John Wilson Croker, by William Owen (died 1825), given to the National Portrait Gallery, London in 1872)


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Birth of Artist & Illustrator Harry Clarke

harry-clarkeHenry Patrick (Harry) Clarke, Irish stained-glass artist and book illustrator, is born in Dublin on March 17, 1889. He is a leading figure in the Irish Arts and Crafts movement.

Clarke is the younger son and third child of Joshua Clarke and Brigid Clarke (née MacGonigal). Church decorator Joshua Clarke moves to Dublin from Leeds in 1877 and starts a decorating business, Joshua Clarke & Sons, which later incorporates a stained glass division. Through his work with his father, Clarke is exposed to many schools of art but Art Nouveau in particular.

Clarke is educated at the Model School in Marlborough Street, Dublin and Belvedere College, which he leaves in 1905. After his mother’s death in 1903, he is apprenticed into his father’s studio and attends evening classes in the Metropolitan College of Art and Design. His The Consecration of St. Mel, Bishop of Longford, by St. Patrick wins the gold medal for stained glass work in the 1910 Board of Education National Competition. At the art school in Dublin, he meets fellow artist and teacher Margaret Crilley. They marry on October 31, 1914.

Clarke moves to London to seek work as a book illustrator. Picked up by London publisher George G. Harrap and Co., he starts with two commissions which are never completed. Difficulties with these projects makes Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen his first printed work, in 1916. It includes 16 colour plates and more than 24 halftone illustrations. This is followed by an illustrations for an edition of Edgar Allan Poe‘s Tales of Mystery and Imagination, the second version of which, published in 1923, makes his reputation as a book illustrator. His work can be compared to that of Aubrey Beardsley, Kay Nielsen, and Edmund Dulac. His final book, Selected Poems of Algernon Charles Swinburne, is published in 1928.

Clarke also continues to work in stained glass, producing more than 130 windows. His glass is distinguished by the finesse of its drawing and his use of rich colours. He is especially fond of deep blues. His use of heavy lines in his black-and-white book illustrations echoes his glass techniques.

Clarke’s stained glass work includes many religious windows, including the windows of the Honan Chapel in University College Cork. He also produces much secular stained glass such as a window illustrating John KeatsThe Eve of St. Agnes (now in the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin) and the Geneva Window, (now in the Wolfsonian Museum, Miami Beach, Florida). Perhaps his most seen works are the windows he creates for Bewley’s on Dublin’s Grafton Street.

Clarke is plagued with ill health, in particular respiratory problems. He is diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1929 and goes to a sanatorium in Davos, Switzerland. Fearing that he will die abroad, he begins his journey back to Dublin in 1931, but dies on this journey on January 6, 1931 in Chur where he is buried. A headstone is erected but local law requires that the family pledge to maintain the grave 15 years after the death. This is not explained to the Clarke family and Harry Clarke’s remains are disinterred in 1946 and reburied in a communal grave.


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Birth of Painter Richard Rothwell

Richard Rothwell, nineteenth-century Irish portrait and genre painter, is born on November 20, 1800 in Athlone, County Westmeath.

Rothwell is born to James and Elizabeth and is the oldest of their seven children. He trains to become a painter at the Dublin Society‘s school from 1814 until 1820 and wins a silver medal for his work. At the age of 24, he is made a member of the newly established Royal Hibernian Academy and exhibits portraits there from 1826 to 1829. He subsequently moves to London and works as a studio assistant to Thomas Lawrence. When Lawrence dies in 1830, Rothwell completes many of his unfinished works and is poised to become the next foremost portrait painter in Britain and Ireland.

According to Leoneé Ormond’s biographical article in the Grove Dictionary of Art, Rothwell “was at the height of his powers from 1829 to 1831” and he “was much influenced by Lawrence, but he lacked the incisiveness and flair of his master.” According to Fintan Cullen‘s biographical entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Rothwell’s “portraits are highly accomplished” and “fine examples” including those of novelist Gerald Griffin and Mary Shelley.

From 1831 to 1834, Rothwell tours Italy to study Italian art so that he can paint history paintings. In the 1830s, he starts painting genre pictures, such as The Poor Mendicants (1837). He usually paints Italian-inspired pieces, such as his semi-nude study Calisto, a work he considers to be his masterpiece. He is furious when the painting is poorly hung at the 1862 International Exhibition in London and publishes a pamphlet on the topic.

When Rothwell returns to London, his popularity has evaporated. He lives and exhibits works in Ireland, the United States, London, and Italy, but he never again achieves the same level of popularity he had reached in the late 1820s.

In 1842 Rothwell marries Rosa Marshall. The couple has several children.  Rothwell contracts a fever while working in Rome and dies on September 13, 1868. Joseph Severn, who painted a portrait of the Romantic poet John Keats, arranges for Rothwell’s funeral and tomb in the Protestant Cemetery, Rome.