Thomas Hovenden

1840 - 1895

Gratz Gallery Outside

Thomas Hovenden

From Cork, Ireland, Thomas Hovenden became known for narrative, anecdotal genre subjects from history, literature, and contemporary events. He was especially sympathetic to Black Americans. His style was highly realistic and reflected his determination to compete successfully with the camera.

He was orphaned at age six. He was a seven-year carver's apprentice, and his master sent him to the Cork School of Design. In 1863, at age 23, he emigrated to the United States and attended the National Academy School in New York City and worked as an illustrator for "Harper's" magazine.

In 1874, he began a six-year stay in Paris, studying with Alexandre Cabanel at the Ecole des Beaux Arts. In Brittany, he married a fellow student, Helen Corson, with whom he had one son, and he often used his family as models in his paintings.

On his return to the United States, he taught at the Philadelphia Academy where Robert Henri was one of his students. He had a reputation for being exceptionally kind and generous. At age 46, he lost his life tragically near his home at Plymouth Meeting while trying to save a young girl from a train.