Sir Thomas Alfred Jones, P.R.H.A.

(? 1823 - 10 May 1893)

The date of his birth is usually given as 1823, and in the matriculation register in Trinity College he is entered as the son of "Thomas Jones." But there is no evidence that either of these statements is correct; he was, in fact, a deserted child whose parentage was unknown, and he was found and taken charge of by the Archdale family and brought up in their house in Kildare Place. Mr. Archdale and his sisters were well known in Dublin for their charity and philanthropy -- he was called "Squire Allworthy," which perhaps may account for the child receiving the name of "Thomas Jones." The "Alfred" was a later addition, probably by Jones himself. Showing signs of artistic talent the boy was placed as a pupil in the Royal Dublin Society's School in 1833, and in 1841, he exhibited a picture in the Royal Hibernian Academy, "Vision of the Kings, a subject from Macbeth." He entered Trinity College on the 14th October, 1842, but left without taking his degree, and in 1846, went abroad and spent about three years in travel on the Continent. Returning to Dublin he settled down to his profession as an artist, and in 1849, sent two drawings, "Portraits of Children of William Gregory," and "Italian Peasants," to the Royal Hibernian Academy. He exhibited again in 1851 and 1856, and thence forward was a regular exhibitor.

His early works were small figure subjects, most of them drawings in water-colour and pastel, for which he found a ready sale; but he ultimately confined himself to portrait painting in oil, in which he achieved success; and after the death of Catterson Smith had almost a monopoly of portrait painting in Ireland. He was elected an Associate of the Royal Hibernian Academy on 16th January, 1860, and a Member the same year under new Charter. On the retirement of Catterson Smith he was elected on the 22nd June, 1869, his successor in the Presidency of the Academy, and in April, 1880, he was knighted by the Lord Lieutenant, the Duke of Marlborough, the first President of the Academy to receive that honour. Dignified and urbane, and popular in Dublin society, he made an admirable President, and was unremitting in his efforts to advance the interests of the Academy. For some time he suffered from ill-health, and he died at his residence, 41 Morehampton Road, on 10th May, 1893, and was buried at Mount Jerome. He was twice married; first to Susan Lucinda, daughter of William Casey of Seafield, County Clare, who died on 10th January, 1876, and secondly to Florence Mary, daughter of Henry Quinan, who died on 14th October, 1894.

Jones's oil portraits are numerous, nearly every one of note for many years sat to him; but his art was commonplace, and though his pictures satisfied his sitters as faithful likenesses they are poorly painted, mechanical in execution, and without any artistic merit. His portrait by himself is in the Council Room of the Royal Hibernian Academy.

A Dictionary of Irish Artists, Walter G. Strickland, 1913

View painter's art: Sir Thomas Alfred Jones, P.R.H.A. (1823-1893) [new window view]