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William John Hennessy ROI (1839-1917)

William John Hennessy, ROI (1839-1917)

Irish born William John Hennessy established himself as a painter and illustrator in New York before settling in England in 1870, and becoming a member of a significant expatriate community. He then became well known for a range of genre scenes set in the open air, in a style that synthesised the precision of Pre-Raphaelitism and the atmospherics of French Naturalism, the latter absorbed through long stays in Normandy.

William John Hennessy was born in Thomastown, County Kilkenny, Ireland, on 11 July 1839, the son of John Hennessy and Catherine (née Laffin). John Hennessy’s involvement in the Young Ireland movement led to his forced emigration to Canada in 1848. Following his move to New York in the following year, his family joined him and settled in the city.

Receiving his education from private tutors, William Hennessy made his first drawings from life in his early teens. He entered the National Academy of Design late in 1854, and exhibited there regularly between 1857 and 1870.

In 1854, The New York Times recorded that the Hennessy family was living at 87 Franklin Street, and reported the extraordinary news that John Hennessy there assaulted David Wemyss Jobson, the former Surgeon-Dentist to Queen Victoria, who had settled in the city and become a journalist.

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