Michael George Brennan, Landscape and Subject Painter

(b. 1839, d. 1871)

Landscape and Subject Painter

From A Dictionary of Irish Artists 1913

Was born on 28th September, 1839, at Castlebar, County Mayo, the second son of Thomas Brennan, who kept a hardware shop. He was educated in a school in Castlebar, and while still a boy taught himself shorthand and supplied reports to the Dublin and local newspapers. He displayed marked artistic talent and obtained a local reputation as a caricaturist. Coming under the notice of Charles O'Donel, afterwards a police magistrate in Dublin, and of Lady Louisa Tenison, he was sent to Dublin about the age of fifteen, and became a student in the Dublin Society's School and in the Royal Hibernian Academy. Going to London he entered the Royal Academy's School and became connected with "Fun," a paper started as a rival to "Punch." For this he drew the frontispiece and several of the principal cartoons, but resigned rather than caricature the Pope, much as Richard Doyle resigned his connection with "Punch." While still a student in the Academy he contracted typhoid fever, and as soon as he was well enough returned to his home in Castlebar. But his health was permanently affected, and he was advised to seek a warmer climate.

He went to Italy, and settled in Rome, where he lived in the same house with George Symonds and Keeley Halswelle. In 1865 he sent three pictures to the Royal Academy, and he continued to exhibit each year down to 1878. His pictures were warmly praised as admirably painted, harmonious in colour, and full of character and feeling. After some years in Rome he took up his residence at Capri, and paid occasional visits to England and Ireland. He had long suffered from consumption, and in 1870 he was ordered to Algiers for the sake of the climate. There he was the guest of Lady Kingston at the Campagna Kingstone. He had left Italy full of hope for the future; but the malady from which he suffered had gone too far. On the 2nd July, 1871, he fell and burst a bloodvessel while dressing. He was carefully tended by Lady Kingston; but his case was hopeless, and after lingering for some time he died on the 27th July, 1871. He was brother of Louis Brennan, c.b., the inventor of the Brennan Torpedo. Pictures:

A Vine Pergola at Capri. [National Gallery of Ireland.]

Interior of a Church at Capri. [National Gallery of Ireland.]

Letter-writer's shop in the Ruins of the Theatre of Marcellus. R.A., 1865.

La Tortorella dei Pompeii. R.A., 1865.

A Capri Courtyard. R.A., 1865.

Kissing the Padre's Hand. R.A., 1866.

The Young Priest, an Interior at Capri. R.A., 1866. A small picture, about 12 inches square; it was sold on the day of the private view to Lord Houghton. "Exquisite for quiet truth, its sentiment of repose and its serene diffused lights." ("Times."). "Not equalled in the exhibition for truth of cool, indoor effect and almost illusive chiaroscuro." ("Sunday Gazette.")

A Courtyard at Capri. R.A., 1867.

Shadows and Sunshine. [Ballarat, Victoria, Australia.] R.A., 1867.

Picking Locusts, Bay of Naples. R.A., 1867.

Nella Chiesa di San Costanza, Capri. R.A., 1867.

Via della Vita, Rome. R.A., 1868. "Of all the Italian subjects of the year there is none so full of character, irrespective of beauty, as Mr. Brennan's 'Via della Vita.' .... He has hitherto been known only by small though very meritorious studies of Italian life. This year's picture gives him a step in artistic rank." ("Times," May 21, 1868.) "A work admirable in all technical respects and evincing a power of seizing character and expression equal to rare achievements in art." ("Illustrated London News," May 30, 1868.) "Mr. Brennan's name and his humorous faculty seem to indicate that, though resident in Rome, his native country is Ireland." ("The Scotsman," February 23, 1869.) This picture was sold at Christie's in 1874 for £210.

Il Tamburino. [Schwabe Museum, Hamburg.] R.A., 1869.

Preaching in the Coliseum, Friday. [Earl of Kingston, Kilronan Castle, Co. Roscommon.] R.A., 1869. R.H.A., 1871.

The Acolyte. R.A., 1870.

Il Barbiere. R.A., 1870.

Portrait of Countess of Kingston. [Earl of Kingston, Kilronan Castle.] R.H.A., 1873, exhibited by Colonel Tenison.

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