Hogan's life in Rome

Like many of the key moments in an artist's life, the next important step in John Hogan's career was based on a chance encounter. One of the excited visitors to Cork to view the Canova casts was the Dublin painter, engraver and picture-dealer William Paulet Carey. While in the gallery, Carey chanced upon a torso carved in wood by Hogan and he immediately set to work to raise funds for John Hogan to go directly to Rome to study. Eventually enough money was raised from, among others, Lord de Tabley and the Royal Irish Institution, and Hogan left for Rome in November 1823, at the age of twenty three. After he arrived in Rome on Palm Sunday in 1824, he began to study immediately in the Vatican and at the Capitol. He was a tireless worker and the habit of constant work never deserted him for the rest of his days. He soon found a friend in Aloysius Gentili, who would afterwards become a famous priest in Dublin. Gentili taught him Italian, until, one day, Hogan exclaimed, "There is nothing in the world but art" and went off to concentrate on his own sculpture.

His first work in Rome was the famous Shepherd Boy, drawn from the streets of Rome where Hogan had seen a youth recumbent on the steps with his pipe and goat. Originally Hogan had planned the work as a gift for Thomas Deane of Cork, but, already short of money, he had to sell the work to Lord Powerscourt who was a noted patron of the arts.

While Hogan was working on his Eve startled at the sight of Death he got into a heated discussion with a group of other artists, including the English artist Gibson, who claimed that there could be no new ideas in art. Hogan set to work in response to a challenge from Gibson and produced his magnificent Drunken Faun. When the sculpture was exhibited at Rome the famous Danish sculptor Thorwaldson told Hogan that he had worked a miracle in art. Around this time Hogan was now master of his own studios, firstly in the Vicolo degli Incurabili, first occupied by Canova, and then in the Vicolo San Giacomo.

By the time his Eve reached England, Lord de Tabley was dead and this great sculpture was left unopened in its crate until exhibited at the Manchester Art Exhibition of 1857. Hogan was already working on his concept for The Dead Christ and this work was exhibited in Dublin in 1829 where it was bought by the Carmelite Fathers for their Clarendon Street church. On this first visit to Dublin from Rome, Hogan was also presented with a gold medal of the Royal Dublin Society. A second version of this sculpture went to the South Chapel in Hogan's first city of Cork. Eight years later Hogan received a commission to create a memorial sculpture to the famous 'J.K.L.' (James of Kildare and Leighlin), Dr James Doyle, Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin. The concept of this sculpture created a sensation in Rome as well as Ireland. Hogan carved the great Bishop Doyle preaching while a diminished but dignified Hibernia rested on one knee by his side. Seeming to comfort Hibernia with one hand, the Bishop has his other hand raised in a sublime appeal to heaven. This was such a powerful mixture of politics and religion it greatly impressed the Romans and Hogan was elected a member of the Society of the Virtuosi and created a member of the Academy of St Luke. The work also created a stir in Dublin, best recorded in two influential notices by Thomas Mulvany in The Citizen and by George Petrie in the Irish Penny Journal, both in December 1840.

As a result of the Dr Doyle sculpture Hogan received another commission, this time for a sculpture to commemorate Captain Drummond, the Under-Secretary for Ireland. Three years later the Repeal Association commissioned a statue of the Liberator, Daniel O'Connell. Always very perceptive about political atmospheres, Hogan said that his statue of O?Connell would express "the power and grandeur of concentrated Ireland." Hogan took great care to study O'Connell's features and gestures, sharing platforms with him, dining with him at Sir John Power?s home, or travelling with O'Connell in his coach and four. The resulting sculpture is that of a massive figure, twelve feet high, commanding and powerful. Hogan deliberately created an ascendant image of buoyant optimism, a break with the representations of Hibernia as a defeated and weeping creature. In the O'Connell work he created a marble metaphor of rising Irish power. These Roman years of Hogan, years when he worked in the city of immortal artists, yet in thematic dialogue with his native land, were probably the best years of his life. In his late thirties he married an Italian, Cornelia Bevignani, in 1837 and she bore him eleven children; one of whom, John Valentine, would follow him into sculpture.

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