John Hickey, Sculptor

(b. 1756, d. 1795)


From A Dictionary of Irish Artists 1913

Was born in Dublin in 1756, the fourth son of Noah Hickey, a confectioner in Capel Street, who died in February, 1776. He studied in the Dublin Society's Schools, which he entered in 1764 and where he obtained several prizes. On leaving the school he became a pupil of Richard Cranfield (q.v.), and as such he exhibited in 1768 at the Society of Artists, in William Street, a "Group of dead game designed for a Girandole." In 1770, while still with Cranfield, he exhibited a "Bas-relief in Wood." He continued in Dublin until 1777, when he went to London and became a student at the Royal Academy; and in that year, from his address 34 Gerrard Street, Soho, he sent to the Academy a bas-relief and a tablet for a chimney-piece.

In 1778 he gained the Academy Gold Medal for a bas-relief, "The Slaughter of the Innocents." He next exhibited in 1780, and continued to do so until 1794. In 1782, when it was proposed to erect a monument to Henry Grattan in Dublin, Hickey applied to have the work entrusted to him. His application was supported by Edmund Burke, who on 11th June, 1782, wrote to the Earl of Charlemont: "It will be a pleasure to you to know that at this time a young man of Ireland is here who, I really think, as far as my judgment goes, is fully equal to the best statuaries both in taste and execution. If you employ him you will encourage the rising arts in the decoration of the rising virtue of Ireland; and though the former, in the scale of things, is infinitely below the latter, there is a kind of relationship between them. I am sure there has ever been a close connexion between them in your mind. The young man's name, who wishes to be employed, is Hickey" (Hist. MSS. Com. Charlemont Papers, Vol. I, p. 61). The projected monument was, however, not carried out.

In 1786 Hickey was appointed sculptor to the Prince of Wales, and he designed a colossal statue of Time supporting a clock for Carlton House, the model of which he showed at the Royal Academy in 1788. In 1787 he executed a large and elaborate monument to Henry Singleton, Chief Justice, who died in 1759, for St. Peter's Church, Drogheda, where it was erected in the chancel, and in 1790 he executed the monument to David La Touche, erected in Delgany Church. This work, which is exceedingly well designed, is of marble, 24 feet high and 14 feet in width; on the top is the figure of David La Touche, standing, with that of Mrs. Peter La Touche on one side, and a cornucopia on the other. At the base are figures of David's sons, David, John and Peter, supporting a sarcophagus of red marble, upon which is an urn of white marble. All the figures are of white marble. An engraving of the monument appeared in the "Hibernian Magazine" for July, 1795. It was repaired and renovated in 1895 by Harrison, of Brunswick Street. At the base of the monument is cut, I. Hickey Sculpt. Lond. 1790.

In 1794 the Roman Catholics of Ireland voted £200 for a statue of the King; Hickey was chosen to execute it, and he came over to Dublin to receive instructions from the committee; but the matter was eventually not proceeded with. Other works of Hickey were two busts of his friend and patron, Edmund Burke, exhibited in the Royal Academy in 1785 and 1791, one of which belongs to Earl Fitzwilliam at Wentworth and was engraved in mezzotint by William Ward; a bust of Robert Boyle, one of the five busts placed in Queen Caroline's Grotto at Richmond; a bust of Lord Loughborough, exhibited in the Royal Academy in 1785; a bust of Mrs. Siddons as Cassandra, exhibited in 1786; a statue of Thalia in 1789, and a bust of Mrs. La Touche in 1794, his last exhibited work.

Unfortunately Hickey's undoubted talents were nullified by his intemperate habits which hastened his end. He died in his lodgings in Oxford Street, on 12th January, 1795. Edmund Burke, writing to Albany Wallis on 15th January, 1795, with reference to a proposed monument to Garrick for which Hickey had been making a design, says: "Death is in close pursuit of us. What has happened since I saw you! But God is wise and just. Whilst Hickey was meditating a monument to Garrick, he is himself carried to the grave. . . . If poor Hickey had been spared to us, should not have preferred any sculptor living to him. But as he has gone, I do not know any one more fitted to fall in with your views than Mr. Banks." (Original letter in possession of H. Sotheran & Co., of 140 Strand, London, in October, 1904.

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