Nicholas Kenny, Portrait Painter

(fl. 1839-1856)

Portrait Painter

From A Dictionary of Irish Artists 1913

A native of Kilkenny, born about 1807. Of his life little is known. The work by which he is remembered is the large picture of "The Irish House of Commons on the 16th April, 1782, when Grattan moved the Declaration of Irish Rights." This picture was painted for Henry Grattan, jun. and was completed in 1844, the collecting and painting of the numerous portraits having occupied four years. It was in Grattan's possession at Celbridge Abbey and passed from him to his daughter, Henrietta, who married Charles Langdale. It now belongs to Major Philip Langdale at Houghton Hall, Sancton, Yorkshire. It measures 9 feet by 7 feet and contains 149 portraits of members and others on the floor of the House, and 98 portraits, including many ladies, in the Gallery. The portraits were taken, some from original pictures, others from engravings. Kenny's studies from the original pictures and engravings are in the possession of Sir Thomas Grattan Esmonde, Bart. at Ballinastragh, Co. Wexford. The figures are carefully done and the grouping well arranged; but in the architectural features of the house the artist has made several errors, omitting the windows in the gallery and those in the dome, and substituting Doric pillars for those in the Ionic style which supported the "goose-pie" roof. The picture was exhibited by Henry Grattan in 1844, with a catalogue giving the names of the persons represented and the sources from which the portraits were taken. To this catalogue Grattan appended the note: "This picture has occupied the space of four years to collect and arrange. I dedicate it to the Irish people, in the hope that it will be engraved and a copy placed in the house of every man who values liberty and his country." The picture, however, was never engraved or reproduced until, in 1906, a reproduction in colours was published in Dublin with the Christmas number of "The Lady of the House."

Kenny painted a "Portrait of Henry Grattan in Volunteer Uniform," now in the Dining Hall in Trinity College; it was engraved by F. C. Lewis as frontispiece to the "Memoirs of Henry Grattan," published in 1839. He also painted a portrait of Mrs. Grattan. Kenny's name does not appear as an exhibitor in the Royal Hibernian Academy or elsewhere. In 1841 he had rooms in Henrietta Street; later he was living at 4 South Richmond Street. His name does not occur after 1856.

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