Thomas Cooley, Portrait Painter

(b. 1795, d. 1872)

Portrait Painter

From A Dictionary of Irish Artists 1913

Was born in Dublin in 1795. His father, William Cooley, son of Thomas Cooley, the architect, took his degree in Trinity College in 1793 and married in 1794 Emily, daughter of Richard Cranfield (q.v.) the sculptor. In his will, dated 3rd October, 1805, Cranfield left an annuity of ten pounds to Thomas Cooley. He was deaf and dumb and appears to have made his studies as an artist in London; for in 1810 a number of his drawings from the antique statues and anatomical casts in the Royal Academy were presented by his father to the Dublin Society for the use of the Figure School.

In 1811 he sent to the Society of Artists in Hawkins Street a "Portrait of Himself" and an "Academy Figure of Atlas." He was in London in 1813 when he exhibited portraits in the Royal Academy, and in the following year was in Dublin, when describing himself as "from London" he sent twenty portraits to the Hibernian Society's exhibition in Hawkins Street—"a crowd of Lord Mayors, Aldermen, Sheriffs and a great variety of other folk of all ages and sizes" ("Carrick's Morning Post"). Among them were the "late Lord Mayor of Dublin" (Abraham Bradley King), "the then Lord Mayor" (John Cash), and "Sir William Stamer," a former Lord Mayor. He again exhibited in 1815 and 1816, sending, among others, "William Farren as Sir Peter Teazle," and a whole-length " Portrait of the Lord Mayor, Sir Robert Shaw," in 1815, and "Miss Walstein as Lady Macbeth," "The Right Hon. Sir William Gregory," and "The Death of Abel," in 1816. He received a premium of twelve pounds ten shillings from the Royal Irish Institution in 1815 and one of twenty pounds in 1820. He was in London in 1817 and was an exhibitor in the Royal Academy and the British Institution until his return to Dublin in 1823.

He was elected an Associate of the Royal Hibernian Academy on 18th July, 1826, and in that year he exhibited portraits of "Sir John Kingston James," who had been Lord Mayor in 1822, of "Alderman Wood," "Lt.-Gen. Meyrick," and "Miss Walstein," as well as a picture, "Children and Dog." In 1828 he was appointed Portrait Painter to the Lord Lieutenant, the Marquess of Anglesey. Resigning his Associateship in 1829 he once more went to London and was a regular exhibitor in the Royal Academy until 1846. He exhibited in all fifty-two pictures in the Academy between 1813 and 1846, including portraits of Miss Walstein as Lady Teazle and as Lady Macbeth. He returned to Dublin in 1847 and sent nine pictures to the Royal Hibernian Academy, including a "Portrait of Himself," and some domestic and subject pictures. Among his contributions the following year was a Portrait of Frank Thorpe Porter," the Police Magistrate. He continued to exhibit yearly until 1854 when he appears to have retired from his profession.

About 1850 he was living with his cousin Thomas Cranfield in Grafton Street; and after his retirement he lived in lodgings in Harcourt Street where he died of smallpox on 20th June, 1872. He was buried in Mount Jerome Cemetery, but no stone or inscription marks his grave. Two of his sketch books are in possession of Mr. John Read, Claremont, Carrickmines. From them it appears that his charges, about 1823, were thirty guineas for a full-length in uniform, fifty guineas for a lady, twenty and twenty-five for half-lengths, and five and seven guineas for bust portraits.

His brother William Desborough Cooley was well known in England, where he resided, as a writer upon geographical subjects and was a member of the Royal Geographical Society. He died in 1883. A portrait of him by his brother belongs to Mr. John Read.

Cooley's pictures were sold by auction on 7th November, 1872. The collection consisted of a number of copies by him of old Masters and some of his own works. The prices obtained were trifling.

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