Crowley, Nicholas Joseph (DNB00)

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Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 13
Crowley, Nicholas Joseph

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CROWLEY, NICHOLAS JOSEPH (1819–1857), painter, was the third son of Peter Crowley, a gentleman of some property in Dublin, where he was born on 6 Dec. 1819. At a very early age Crowley showed a decided artistic talent and became a pupil of the Royal Dublin Society. In 1835, at the age of fifteen, he exhibited at the Royal Academy a picture entitled ‘The Eventful Consultation’ (an incident from Warren's ‘Diary of a late Physician’), and from that time till his death, twenty-two years later, his name regularly appeared in the list of exhibitors. He exhibited forty-six pictures. In 1838 he was elected a member of the Royal Hibernian Academy. In the following year he exhibited in the Royal Academy a portrait of the Marquis of Normanby, late lord-lieutenant of Ireland. Crowley had already become very popular in his native country, where his ‘Cup-tossing,’ purchased in 1842 by the Royal Irish Art Union, is still a favourite subject, having been frequently reproduced in engravings, photographs, and pottery. He painted several portraits of O'Connell during the imprisonment of the latter in 1844. To one of these O'Connell subscribed the following autograph: ‘I sat during my imprisonment in Richmond Bridewell to have this portrait of me painted by Mr. Crowley for my esteemed friend and fellow-prisoner John Gray. Daniel O'Connell, M.P. for the county of Cork, 6 Sept. 1844, Richmond Bridewell.’ This portrait is still in the possession of the family of the late Sir John Gray. At the same time and place Crowley painted the editor of the ‘Nation,’ Charles Gavan Duffy, who writing years later relates that the artist had bestowed upon him (Duffy) ‘a dreamy poetic head which might have passed for Shelley's.’ The portrait of O'Connell was exhibited in the London Academy Exhibition of 1845, and in the same exhibition appeared ‘Taking the Veil,’ one of the best known of Crowley's pictures, painted for St. Vincent's Hospital, Dublin, and still to be seen in that institution. It contains among other portraits those of Dr. Murray, Roman catholic archbishop of Dublin; of Mrs. Aikenhead, foundress of the order of Religious Sisters of Charity in England and Ireland; and of the artist himself in the background.

From 1835 Crowley passed a considerable portion of his time in London, and from 1843 till his death lived at 13 Upper Fitzroy Street. Here he produced numerous works in history, domestic life, and portraiture, many of which were engraved and lithographed. Much of his time continued, however, to be spent in Ireland, where about two months before his death he completed a picture of ‘The Irish Court,’ a commission from the Earl of Carlisle, then lord-lieutenant. Coming to London in the autumn of 1857 he was taken ill with diarrhœa, and died on 4 Nov. in that year.

[Information from Mr. R. B. Sheridan Knowles, nephew of N. J. Crowley.]