KIRWAN, WILLIAM BOURKE

(b. about 1814, d. ?)

Miniature Painter

From A Dictionary of Irish Artists 1913

Was born in Dublin about 1814, the son of Patrick Kirwan, a native of the County Fermanagh and a picture-dealer in Dublin. He was a pupil of Richard Downes Bowyer (q.v.), and exhibited miniatures and domestic subjects in water-colour in the Royal Hibernian Academy from 1836 to 1846. He worked for Henry Gonne the engraver and for Hodges of Grafton Street, but his chief occupation was as an anatomical draughtsman for surgeons and as a picture cleaner. From 1845 he resided at 6 Lower Merrion Street and later at 11 Upper Merrion Street.

Kirwan is better known from the sensational ending of his career than as an artist. On the 8th and 9th of December, 1852, he was tried in Dublin for the murder at Ireland's Eye, near Howth, on the 6th of the previous September, of his wife, Sara Maria Louisa, a daughter of a James Crowe a lieutenant in the 2nd West India Regiment. He had long kept up another establishment at Sandymount with a Maria Theresa Kenny by whom he had eight children, which was adduced against him in evidence as forming a motive for his alleged crime. He was found guilty and condemned to death, but as the evidence against him was not wholly conclusive, the sentence was commuted to transportation for life. He was liberated a few years ago and is said to have died in America. In the British Museum is a drawing by him, water-colour over pencil, "The Bog-trotter," an old man trudging over a bog with his dog.

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