O'Neil, Henry Nelson (DNB00)

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O'NEIL, HENRY NELSON (1817–1880), historical painter, was born of British parentage at St. Petersburg on 7 Jan. 1817. He came to England at the age of six, and in 1836 entered the schools of the Royal Academy, where he formed a close friendship with Alfred Elmore [q. v.]. with whom he afterwards visited Italy. His first picture, ‘A Student,’ appeared at the Royal Academy in 1838, and was followed in 1840 by ‘Margaret before the Image of the Virgin,’ and in 1841 by ‘The First Thought on Love’ and ‘Theckla at the Grave of Max Piccolomini.’ In 1842 he exhibited ‘Paul and Francesca of Rimini,’ and ‘Peasants returning from the Vineyard;’ in 1843, ‘Jephthah's Daughter: the last day of mourning,’ which was engraved in line by Peter Lightfoot, for the Art Union of London; in 1844, ‘Boaz and Ruth,’ which was purchased by the prince consort; and in 1846, ‘By the Rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.’ Subsequently his chief contributions to the Royal Academy were ‘Mozart's Last Moments,’ 1849; ‘Esther,’ 1850; ‘The Scribes reading the Chronicles to King Ahasuerus,’ 1851; ‘Katharine's Dream,’ 1853; ‘The Return of the Wanderer,’ a work which marked great progress, and was engraved in mezzotint by W. H. Simmons, 1855; ‘Eastward Ho!’ the most popular of all his works, engraved in mezzotint bv W. T. Davey, 1858; ‘Home again,’ also engraved by W. T. Davey, 1859; ‘A Volunteer,’ an incident connected with the wreck of the Royal Charter, 1860, in which year he was elected an associate of the Royal Academy; ‘The Parting Cheer,’ 1861; ‘The Landing of H.R.H. the Princess Alexandra at Gravesend,’ 1864; ‘The Lay of King Canute,’ 1865; and ‘The Last Moments of Raffaelle,’ 1866. He exhibited also at the British Institution, where he had in 1840 ‘A Musical Party’ and ‘La Biondina in Gondoletta,’ and in 1843 a ‘Scene from Twelfth Night,’ and at the Society of British Artists. Latterly his work became very unequal, and it was often coarse of touch and crude in colour. He painted also landscapes and some portraits, among which were those of the Duke of Newcastle, John Phillip, R.A., Robert Keeley, and William Mackworth Praed. Some interesting portraits by him belong to the Garrick Club.

O'Neil published in 1866 his ‘Lectures on Painting delivered at the Royal Academy,’ and afterwards made some other attempts in literature. ‘Two Thousand Years hence’ appeared in 1868: ‘Modern Art in England and France’ in 1869; ‘Satirical Dialogues,’ in verse, in 1870; and ‘The Age of Stucco: a Satire in three Cantos,’ in 1871. He was also an amateur musician and a good violin player. He died at 7 Victoria Road, Kensington, London, on 13 March 1880, and was buried in Kensal Green cemetery.

[Art Journal, 1880, p. 171; Times, 15 March 1880, notice by Anthony Trollope; Athenæum, 1880, i. 384; Academy, 1880, i. 220; Royal Academy Exhibition Catalogues, 1838-79; Exhibition Catalogues of the Society of British Artists, 1838-43; British Institution Exhibition Catalogues, 1839-1861.]

R. E. G.