This painting is a little gem, an oil on canvas measuring only 6 1/4" by 4 3/4" (11" by 9 1/2" in the 19th century frame). It is an early work from when the artist was not yet thirty years of age, by the well-known Irish-born WILLIAM JOHN HENNESSY (sometimes spelled "Hennessey"), 1839-1917. He signed it in red at lower left, where it is dated 1860. The subject is an old man reading by candlelight in a humble, dim, apparently chilly interior in winter (he is warming his left hand in front of the fireplace which flickers comfortingly at right). Hennessy was born in County Kilkenny, Ireland and joined his father in Canada in 1848, a turbulent time in Ireland. Shortly he was in New York City, where at only 15 the precocious and naturally talented artist was already studying painting at the National Academy. Within three years he had his first exhibit there, and by 1863, at only twenty-four, he was made a full academy member. Hennessey painted many genre paintings and landscapes often populated with figures. He also illustrated works of the poets Tennyson, Longfellow, and Whittier. Hennessy's works have been long sought-after on both sides of the Atlantic. Many of Hennessy's paintings have sold for more than $20,000; a number of the larger works have exceeded $50,000 at auction; one made nearly $100,000. He is perhaps most appreciated by Irish collectors. This painting is somewhat dusty, has (stable) craquelure, and the canvas is a little wavy. Essentially it is in a remarkably original condition. The frame is missing a small chunk at left as shown. A charming little work.
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