John Comerford was a native of Kilkenny City, Ireland. He has been described as the most successful portrait miniaturist working in Ireland during the early nineteenth century. Miniatures by Comerford may be seen in the National Gallery, Dublin and in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Many of his miniatures are also held in various private collections.
John Comerford was born in Kilkenny City about 1770. His father is reported to have worked in the flax industry and lived opposite the Tholsel in Kilkenny city. Comerford learned his early artistic skills by carefully copying paintings belonging to the Marquis of Ormonde in Kilkenny Castle. He then worked as a portrait painter in Kilkenny, Waterford and other surrounding towns. In Carrick-on-Suir, for instance he painted a portrait of a Dr Walsh and his family.
As a young man John Comerford moved to Dublin where he enrolled as a student in the Art School of the Dublin Society. He returned to Kilkenny city in 1793 where he advertised himself as a ‘portrait painter in oils’. He appears to have divided his time between Kilkenny and Dublin and by 1797 he again advertised in Kilkenny as a painter ‘in oil and miniature’. By 1800 his miniature painting had begun to attract attention and he settled in Dublin in 1802.
Works by Comerford were exhibited at the Royal Academy in London in 1804 and again in 1809. He eventually had a large and very successful art practise through which he accumulated a considerable fortune. He painted well known figures of his time. He was commissioned by the Emmet family to do a miniature portrait of their son Robert during his trial in Green Street Courthouse in Dublin in 1803. He also did a miniature painting of Daniel O Connell MP. Both paintings are in the collection of the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin.
Comerford’s work which runs to over 150 pieces is found in galleries and private collections in Ireland and abroad. He was strongly opposed to the establishment of the Royal Hibernian Academy. However the Academy obtained a charter in 1821 but Comerford never became a member.
John Comerford died at his home at 28 Blessington Street, Dublin in the year 1832 On This Day.
Image from page 157 of “Miniatures, ancient and modern”
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