Until recently little was known of the Irish artist Jeremiah Hodges Mulcahy (1804-1889). The discovery of the artist's papers from a private collection sheds new light on both the artist and his works but also the visual arts of the nineteenth century. Jeremiah Hodges Mulcahy was born in Limerick on 12 September 1804. The artist received some art tuition during his teenage years at a local art school. Although there is no evidence of other formal eductaion, his knowledge of classical literature and art reveals that he was well educated. Opportunites for the study of the old masters were available through visits to his patrons' estates. Many of Mulcahy's early works were produced for commissions he received from gentry of the Munster region and mainly comprise of classical views and picturesque parklands. From the early 1830s onwards, he relied on private patronage from patrons and friends who included the Earl and Countess of Dunraven, the poet Sir Aubrey De Vere and the Knight of Glin. Mulcahy's best known picturesque views are those of Curragh Chase Park, Sir Aubrey De Vere's seat, (National Gallery of Ireland and Limerick City Gallery of Art) and that of Glin Castle, Co. Limerick, the seat of the Knight of Glin.
From 1842-1853 the artist established an art academy in Limerick City where he provided art tuition to the local gentry, merchants and military of the region. As an Irish regional artist and art teacher he spent much of his life in Limerick City until 1862, when he moved to Dublin. Mulcahy exhibited at various exhibitions in Ireland and England, including the Royal Hibernian Academy, where he was an Associate Member. The artist toured Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales and, at some point between 1839 and 1842, he travelled to Blatherwycke Park, Northamptonshire, the English seat of his patron and friend Augustus Stafford O'Brien of Cratloe Woods, Co. Clare. Mulcahy developed friendships with the British marine artist Richard Brydges Beechey H.R.H.A. (1808-1895) and the Irish artist Michael Angelo Hayes R.H.A. (1820-1877).
The present pictures are among Mulcahy's finest Irish views in terms of colour and composition. Evident in the views are elements of Romanticism combined with Mulcahy's Dutch influences. The former, which may show a view in Kerry, where the artist painted extensively in the 1860s, exudes the sense of awe, evident among the tourists in the scene, and exemplifies scenes of early tourism in Ireland. An elegantly dressed couple stand to look over the landscape at the waterfall and mountain, partially hidden by Mulcahy's distinctive leafy trees. While a horse and cart wait on the roadside, another couple appear sitting on the roadside wall. The atmosphere of this peaceful but seemingly busy scenic area is enhanced by the addition of a scene on the river edge where a man has fallen on the rocky ground, his hat just fallen off behind, with two men coming to his assistance. In the left foreground a group of men appear deep in discussion most likely about the flora, fauna or geology of the area. The view may show a group of antiquarians on a tour of the countryside. Many antiquarian, scientific and cultural societies were established during the period such as the Royal Irish Academy to create an interest and promote the study of Ireland's landscape and cultural past.
The second of the pair, which is dated 1866, may be the view of Glenmalure, County Wicklow, exhibited at the R.H.A. in 1866. As in the other painting, the same couple stand to glance over to a monastic ruin in the valley, while the right middle ground includes two men inspecting the rock formations on the hill, representing the developing interest in Ireland's landscape. It seems likely that these views may have been commissioned for a private patron as the same couple appear in contemplation, gazing over the beautiful Irish landscape. These pictures capture the atmosphere of the period in a way which illustrates the artist's love of nature, but also the developing leisure pursuits and tastes of the upper and middle classes. Scenic places of interest included areas where the tourist could view the unusual and enjoy antiquarian interests such as archaeology, history, geology, botany, painting and sketching. Both views evoke the sublime and beautiful landscape, which attracted tourists and antiquarians of the nineteenth century to these areas.
We are grateful to Edel Casey for providing us with this catalogue entry.