Bust O’ The Irish!

July 8 2010, 3:48pm

John Hogan (1800-1858) was one of Ireland’s greatest sculptors. He was born the son of a carpenter at Tallow, Co. Waterford, and by 1816 was apprenticed to Thomas Deane, a builder and architect for whom he worked as a carpenter and woodcarver. In 1823, he attracted the attention of the Irish engraver W.P. Carey, who recognized his talent and helped him  to study in Rome. Portrait of John Hogan. Cork City Libraries.

Hogan set out for Italy and soon made a name for himself, remaining there except for a number of return visits to Ireland, until 1848.  Famed neoclassical sculptor Bertel Thorwaldsen is supposed to have said, “My son you are the best sculptor I leave after me in Rome.”  In 1840, Hogan was elected a member of the society of “Virtuosi al Pantheon”, the first British subject to be so honored since its foundation in 1500. Hogan died in Dublin on 27 March 1858, ten years after he finally left Italy.  Whilst in Rome he had sent much of his work home and subsequently today most of his sculpture is in Ireland. Hogan frequently exhibited at the Royal Academy in London, as well as at the National Exhibition of 1852 in Cork and the Paris International exhibition.  He was quick to take up the neoclassicism of Canova and Thorwaldsen when he arrived in Rome, and his seemingly effortless talent produced a body of work which was much admired, from his religious and funerary monuments to his large scale commissioned work and intimate portraits. Marble portrait bust of James Murphy by Hogan.

The present bust depicts James Murphy (1768-1855) of Ringmahon Castle, Blackrock, Co. Cork. James was a magistrate and a brewer who, along with his brothers, founded James Murphy and Company, Distillers in 1825. The Murphy family was also known for having several of its members in the clergy, including James’ brother, Bishop Murphy, who Hogan had also portrayed. The curly hair is heavily drilled and his eyelids sharply incised; this together with the strong modeling of the face produce a keenly observed and exquisitely sculpted portrait. The relief on the base (left) shows Mercury flying with cadacus and trumpet; the relief (right) shows Hibernia seated on a bale with cornucopia and a barrel.  Both reliefs are emblematic of commerce. Signed and dated on the reverse Hogan Fecit 1834.