Hogan's Early Life and Education

John Hogan was born in Tallow, Co. Waterford in October 1800. His father was a local builder with a terrific mechanical flair and his mother was the orphaned daughter of a Co. Cork gentry family. The story of Hogan's parentage is a very romantic one. His father was an artisan builder, a master of his craft, who was on familiar social terms with the man who employed him to supervise the new wing of Castle Richard near Tallow. One day, a beautiful teenage girl from Co. Cork, a Miss Frances Cox of Dunmanway, came to stay with her cousins at the castle that was undergoing renovation. In the pleasant summer evenings, as one writer has written, an attachment grew between the genteel builder Mr Hogan and the very young woman. The couple fell in love and, despite the protests and threats of her family, they married in 1796. Her family withdrew her inheritance and marriage settlement of 2,000, but the young couple entered into a very happy life-long marriage.

John Hogan was the third child and eldest son of this marriage. Soon after his birth his father transferred the family home to Cork, then undergoing its most prosperous period as a rich merchant city. John grew up to be a hardy, active and headstrong boy with four sisters and one brother. When he was eight years old Hogan was sent back to Co. Waterford, to the boarding school of Mr Cangley. There, he acquired a taste for history, mathematics and pensmanship. He was popular and active, taking part with vigour in every out-of-school activity, including many fist-fights from which he usually emerged victorious.

At the age of fourteen he was brought home to Cork and placed in the legal offices of Michael Foote, a solicitor with a large practice. There he spent two very idle years, going through the motions of legal copying. He spent most of his idle hours copying architectural drawings and prints, until his activities were discovered one day by Dr Coghlan. He was also encouraged by his brother Richard, who also wished to become an artist. John's father was then working as foreman in a building project for Sir Thomas Deane and the young Hogan was soon copying plans for a new gaol in Cork for the famous architect's office.

Hogan transferred from the office of the solicitor to the office of the architect, with the object of becoming, in time, an architect also. He was thrilled to be in a new atmosphere where design was prized and he worked tirelessly for Deane, copying and modeling in clay. Sir Thomas gave him a set of chisels and, at the age of nineteen, Hogan began his life in sculpture. One of his first carvings was a study of foliage in wood, forming the cornice of a shop-front, but many other brilliant examples followed, including a 'Minerva' for an Insurance Company and the skeleton head of a female for Dr Woodruffe.

Then an event occurred in Cork artistic life that was to have a profound effect not only on John Hogan but on generations of artists from the southern capital. In 1818 a selection of one hundred and fifteen casts of the most celebrated marbles of Rome, including the Belvedere Apollo, Laocoon, and the Dying Gladiator, arrived at Cork and were exhibited with great care and ceremony. The casts had been made under the supervision of the great Canova and were a gift from Pope Pius VII to the Prince Regent. They came to the Cork Society for Promoting the Fine Arts through the intervention of Lord Ennismore or John Wilson Croker of the Admiralty. Their arrival in Cork created a sensation in artistic circles and John Hogan, in the company of his artist brother Richard as well as Forde and Maclise, soon set to work sketching and copying these examples of Greco-Roman art. The Catholic Bishop of Cork, Dr Murphy, who was a friend of Canova, soon put the young Hogan to work, carving twenty seven figures of saints and apostles for the North Cathedral. Hogan's true life as an artist had begun.


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