Henry Edward Doyle, Painter

(b. 1827, d. 1892)


From A Dictionary of Irish Artists 1913

Henry Edward Doyle. Photograph.

Was born in Dublin in 1827, the third son of John Doyle (q.v.), the famous HB. He received his art education in Dublin, but spent most of his early life in London, where he worked as a draughtsman and wood-engraver. His illustrations for "Telemachus" were remarkable for their fine colour and their imagination and invention. In 1844 he made a number of small cuts for "Punch," and from 1867 to 1869 did the cartoons for "Fun," which he signed with a "Hen," or "Fusbos."

On the recommendation of Cardinal Wiseman he was appointed Commissioner for Rome in the London International Exhibition of 1862, and was created a Knight of the Order of Pius IX. Although Doyle never attained any marked success as a painter, his training and the technical knowledge he acquired were useful qualifications for the position he so admirably held in after life. He painted a few portraits, but his inclinations were towards religious art. His most important work is the decoration in the chapel of the Dominican Convent at Cabra, near Dublin, done in 1864. This consists of ten pictures on the wall of the apse in compartments separated by arabesque work; in the centre is a group of the Holy Family, and on each side are figures of the chief saints of the Dominican Order, and in the circular space above, heads of saints. All the figures are somewhat over life-size. The ceiling is painted with emblematical figures and characters from the Old Testament in four compartments. The work was executed on dry plaster.

Doyle, by his tact, his good nature and his easy and pleasant manners, made friends wherever he went and was well known and popular in London society. He was a man who had the knack of getting on in the world. When, in 1869, the Directorship of the National Gallery of Ireland became vacant by the death of George F. Mulvany, Doyle was, on the 22nd March, elected to fill the position. During his twenty-three years' tenure of the office he, by his sound judgment, pure taste and wide knowledge, made the collection under his charge one of the most interesting of the minor galleries of Europe. With the small sum at his disposal he succeeded in acquiring many of its most valued treasures; his practical knowledge and his dexterity as a buyer in Christie's sale-rooms enabling him to purchase for small sums pictures, whose intrinsic merits his fine taste enabled him to see, many of them by painters then neglected whose works have since became enormously enhanced in value. In recognition of his services to the Gallery he was made C.B. in November, 1880. After the Dublin Exhibition of 1872, in which was brought together an important collection of Irish Portraits, Doyle determined to add a National Portrait collection to the Gallery, and he endeavoured to obtain an annual grant for the purpose from the Treasury. Although this was refused he nevertheless persevered with his intention and acquired portraits as opportunities occurred, and thus laid the foundation of the present fine collection of Irish Portraits in the Dublin Gallery.

On the 18th April, 1872, he was elected an Associate of the Royal Hibernian Academy, and became a Member on the 10th December, 1874. Although he seldom contributed to its exhibitions, he was, by his wise and judicious counsel on all important occasions, one of its most useful members. He died suddenly of heart disease in his lodgings in South Street, Mayfair, on the 17th February, 1892. Doyle married in 1866, Jane, daughter of Nicholas Ball, Justice of the Common Pleas in Ireland.

In the National Gallery of Ireland are a "Portrait of Richard Doyle," an oil sketch by him; a "Portrait of Cardinal Wiseman" in water-colour, a "Portrait of John Ruskin" in pencil, and "The Annunciation," a water-colour done in 1867. Portraits of "Percy Fitzgerald" and "Viscount Monck" were exhibited by him in the Royal Hibernian Academy in 1877.

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