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John Talbott Donoghue

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John Talbott Donoghue
Figural Sculpture, bas relief, painting
American, (1853–1903)
John Talbott Donoghue was born in 1853 to Irish immigrants Edward and Margaret Donoghue, who settled in Chicago. Donoghue became an artist known for figurative sculpture, bas relief, and painting. He spent his career between Chicago, Paris, Rome, London, New York, and Boston.

Donoghue briefly worked as a clerk in the records office of the County Clerk of Chicago before entering the Chicago Academy of Design in 1875. Two years later he won a scholarship to study at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts under Francois Jouffroy, and exhibited in the 1880 Salon before returning to the United States in 1881.

Praise from his friend and enthusiastic supporter Oscar Wilde earned Donoghue enough work to return to Paris and study with Alexandre Falguiere. From 1884-1887 Donoghue kept his studio in Rome while continuing to exhibit in Paris. He exhibited in the Salons of 1884, 1886, and 1887.

Returning from Paris in 1887, Donoghue settled in Boston where he completed a full-length portrait statue of popular boxer John L. Sullivan in 1887, and a statue of Boston Mayor Hugh O'Brien in 1888. Portraits and busts of celebrities, public figures, socialites, and allegorical figures were his focus, and he regularly completed private commissions from patrons. His typical materials were plaster, marble, and bronze.

Since the early 1880s Donoghue worked in his studio in Rome. Here he created several new works, including his masterpiece, The Young Sophocles, which was first cast in 1885. The work earned him Honorable Mention at the Paris Salon of 1886. It was also exhibited at the 1893 World's Columbian Exhibition in Chicago and received First Place. Donoghue sculpted multiple works for the Fair, but the most ambitious sculpture (which he called both Kypros and Diana) failed to arrive safely from Europe and thus could not be displayed. Donoghue later commissioned the Barbedienne foundry of Paris to cast 44 1/2 inch editions of The Young Sophocles.

Later in life Donoghue received comissions to portray a figure Saint Paul for the Library of the Appellate Court Building in New York and Saint Paul for the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. However, overall his career began to wane. Hoping for steady income, he gained employment at an architectural firm to make small clay Tangara statuettes. Although the partially painted clay figures used by the ancient Greeks as cult objects were popular in Paris, the work never provided Donoghue with sufficient cash flow so he took up painting landscapes and human subjects for additional income. A steady decline in commissions and a rejected design for the McKinley Monument in Philadelphia marked a discouraging end to Donoghue's career. In 1903 he died in Hamden, Connecticut from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

His work is in collections including the Art Institute of Chicago; the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston; the St. Louis Art Museum; and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. A full size edition of The Young Sophocles, in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum, is on permanent loan to the Federal Reserve Bank in New York City. Donoghue also wrote a book, X-Rays with Religious, announced by ArtNews in 1897.

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