George Grattan, Historical and Subject Painter

(b. 1787, d. 1819)

Historical and Subject Painter

From A Dictionary of Irish Artists 1913

A native of Dublin, he was born in 1787 and from his childhood showed a predilection for art. Entering the Dublin Society's Schools he gained medals in 1797 and succeeding years, and in 1800 was given a gratuity of ten guineas "as an encouragement to his genius," and to enable him to purchase colours, canvas, etc. In the following year a sum of twenty pounds per annum was allowed him out of the funds of the Society, "as an encouragement to his studies and a means of assisting him in his education." While still a student in the schools he painted miniatures and sent seven works, portraits and landscapes, to the exhibition in the Parliament House in 1801. For one of his landscapes he was awarded a premium by the Dublin Society.

Commenting on his works a contemporary paper says: "If this boy be properly attended to, and if he himself does but modestly and sedulously cultivate his fine and vigorous genius, he will at a future day prove an honour to his country and the Arts." In 1802 he was given a prize for a clay model of a figure, and in 1803 he obtained first prize for a landscape from nature. General Vallancey helped and befriended him, and brought him to the notice of the Lord Lieutenant, the Earl of Hardwicke, for whom he did several crayon portraits and views. On leaving the schools he established himself, in 1804, in Chatham Street, and exhibited that year at the Artists' Exhibition in Dame Street. His early works were chiefly in crayons and water-colours, mostly portraits and landscapes; but he afterwards devoted himself more particularly to historical subjects and rural and domestic scenes in oil. Amongst his works which attracted notice were his "David and Abigail," and "Jane Shore dying."

In 1807 he painted a large picture of a "Beggarwoman and Child," which the Dublin Society purchased from him for one hundred guineas, declaring that the work "discovers the highest talents, and deserves the warmest appreciation." The Society likewise agreed to allow the artist to take the picture to London for exhibition, and granted him a further sum of one hundred guineas for his expenses. Grattan accordingly took the picture to London, but being too late for the Academy Exhibition he exhibited it privately. He returned to Dublin after an absence of six months and sent the picture to the exhibition held at the Dublin Society's House in Hawkins Street in 1809. On the death of F. R. West in January, 1809, Grattan was a candidate for the vacant mastership in the School; but although the committee reported that the drawings sent in by him were decidedly superior to those of R. L. West, the latter artist was appointed. Grattan addressed a protest to the Society, and the drawings he had submitted, viz.: "The Race of Hippomanes and Atalanta" and "Antinous," were purchased for one hundred guineas. In 1812 the artist again went to London, and exhibited in the Royal Academy "The Guard-Room," illustrating lines in Canto VI of "The Lady of the Lake"; and "The Gathering," illustrating Canto III, and "Noontide."

He also showed at the British Institution his pictures of "The meeting of David and Abigail," and "The Race of Hippomanes and Atalanta," the latter a large work 9 feet by 5 feet 6 inches. He did not remain long in London, and was back in Dublin in 1813. In Dublin he was an exhibitor at the various artists' exhibitions in 1801, 1804, and from 1809 to 1813, after which latter year he no longer exhibited; nor do we hear anything more of him as an artist. He fell into ill-health, and removing to Cullenswood for change died there on the 18th June, 1819. He was buried on the 21st in the old churchyard at Glasnevin, where the following inscription may still be read upon his tombstone: "Here lieth George Grattan; He was pre-eminently skill'd as a painter, and was justly considered one of the brightest flowers of Irish Genius; He devoted his short life to the duties of a son and the affections of a brother. His piety was of that retiring kind which hides itself from human scrutiny, and while he saw and admired the beauty of this world, he yet worked and hoped through Christ our Lord to be received into another and better. He died June 18, 1819."

After his death an exhibition of his works was held by his brother William, at No. 15 Dame Street. Seventy-five pictures and drawings were shown, consisting of landscapes and Biblical and other subjects. In the introductory note to the catalogue his brother explains the objects of the exhibition to be "first, that he may in some degree establish the reputation even for a departed brother of which he had so little the honours or profit while alive; secondly, hoping to gain some advantage for those whom he has left behind." Among Grattan's works were:

Jane Shore dying. An early work, described as a poor picture— drawing bad and colour cold and raw.

The Peasant's Family. Painted about the same time as foregoing, and said to have been a better picture both in colour and composition.

A Blind Piper. Ex. Dublin. 1801.

Portrait of Henry Hutton, Lord Mayor. Ex. Dublin, 1804.

Beggarwoman and Child. Painted in 1807. [Royal Dublin Society's House.]

The Tired Traveller. Belonged to Henry Harrington, of 5 Great Denmark Street, Dublin, and was at his sale in 1832. It afterwards belonged to Robert Murphy, whose collection was sold in Dublin in 1837.

Meeting of David and Abigail. B.I., 1812.

The Race of Hippomanes and Atalanta. B.I. 1812. This picture was amongst those exhibited after his death, and is described as "probably the best painting which an Irish artist has ever produced" ("Dublin Inquisitor," Vol. I, 1821). The drawing for the picture was purchased by the Dublin Society in 1809.

The Guard Room. R.A., 1812.

The Gathering. R.A., 1812.

Noontide. R.A., 1812.

St. John Preaching in the Wilderness. In sale of collection of William Ogilby in Dublin, 1837.

Old Blind Man who formerly stood at Clontarf. A small picture 15 inches by 12 inches. Was in the collection of Francis Johnston, architect, and sold at his sale in 1845.

Sappho. Exhibited in Dublin in 1810.

The Death of Niobe's Children. Exhibited in Dublin in 1810.

The Hermit. Belonged to late Dr. J. Kenny, of Rutland Square, and was in his sale June, 1900.

South View of Christ Church Cathedral. Water-colour drawing. [Victoria and Albert Museum.]

The Earl of Cork's Monument in St. Patrick's Cathedral; engraved by W. Findlay for Monck Mason's "History of St. Patrick's."

An Irish Peasant. Etching; published in London by M'Lean in 1826.

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