By the Irish-born artist who came to America as a youngster, WILLIAM J. HENNESSY (1839-1917), this is a charming, intimate little oil on canvas, 6 1/4" by 4 3/4" (11" by 9 1/2" in the 19th century frame), depicting an old man reading by candlelight in an interior, a red cloth in his right hand, the left hand splayed towards a comforting glowing fire in the hearth. Apparently he is alone on a quiet winter's evening, reading the way people had to read before electricity's arrival on the scene. The detail is very fine, the atmosphere palpable. The painting is signed in red at lower left corner, and is dated there 1860 or 1862. Hennessy was born in Ireland around the time of the Potato Famine. His father came to Canada and then America, and the young Hennessy soon followed, to New York. Always talented, by age 15 he was already at the National Academy of Design studying painting, and by 1857, he had already exhibited there. By 1863, shortly after this was painted (date might be 1862---difficult to be certain---looks to be 1860, with a short dash after the "0"---, he was made full National Academician. Hennessy painted sometimes in a very impressionist style, and those works, of spring landscapes and the like, brought to nearly $90,000 at the height of the art market in 2006. This painting is in generally very good condition. There is some craquelure at lower left quadrant, but the area is stable. The piece of frame at upper left went missing since this has been in my possession; I am hopeful of finding it.
WILLIAM J. HENNESSY (1839-1917) fine American early oil painting "A Scholar in his Library" dated 1860