Oliver Sheppard

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The Dying Cuchulain (photograph by Kman999).

Oliver Sheppard RHA (10 April 1865 – 14 September 1941) was an Irish sculptor, most famous for his 1911 bronze statue of the mythical Cuchullain dying in battle.


Sheppard was born at Old Town, Cookstown, County Tyrone, to Simpson Sheppard, a sculptor, and Ellen White, of Ormond Quay, Dublin.[1]

Sheppard was based in Dublin for almost all of his life, having travelled widely across Europe. His wife Rosie died in 1931, with whom he had several children. They lived at Howth and 30 Pembroke Road in central Dublin.


His main influence was the Frenchman Édouard Lantéri who taught him at the Royal College of Art in London, and then at the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art (DMSA) in Dublin (now the NCAD), where he later became a lecturer.


From 1902 to 1937 Sheppard taught sculpture at the DMSA, that was renamed the National College of Art in 1936 (today the NCAD). His annual stipend was £250 but for this he only had to lecture on three mornings a week, allowing him plenty of time for work on commissioned projects. One of his most famous students was the sculptor Kathleen Cox.[2]

As a prominent sculptor Sheppard was a member of the Royal Hibernian Academy, the Royal Dublin Society, and was made a governor of the National Gallery of Ireland from 1925–41.

He was generally critical of the low standards of sculpture in Ireland: "For the last sixty years or so thousands of figures and groups have been executed in Dublin for ecclesiastical purposes, and, with one or two exceptions ... was not up to a reasonable standard. The making of a work of art hardly entered into it at all. The sculptor, well trained and properly encouraged, should collaborate with the architect."[3]

Sheppard also exhibited works at European exhibitions in his lifetime, occasionally winning prizes.[4]

Prominent works[edit]

Memorial bust of Mangan.
The figure of Cúchulainn was used to commemorate the Easter Rising on the ten shilling coin

Political influence and opinion[edit]

Sheppard was in the minority of Irish Protestants who supported independence, starting with support for the Irish Parliamentary Party in the 1880s, when he was an art student.

In 1890–1910 he was a part of the Celtic Revival movement, and, from his works such as Inis Fáil, was admired by his student William Pearse. Through him he met his brother Patrick Pearse who later helped launch the Easter Rising in 1916. While most of the Revival's artists were writers, playwrights and poets, Sheppard could claim to be the main sculptor working on themes similar to theirs.

After the Anglo-Irish war (1919–21) he said: "They thought me too old to fight but I have tried to help in other ways. My politics are simple. I have always thought that this country should be a free country."[7]

Sheppard's opinions were not overly dogmatic, considering his work on the war memorials in 1920.

Coin designs[edit]

In the mid-1920s the first series of Irish Free State coinage was planned, and was finally launched in 1928. Sheppard was one of the designers short-listed but his designs were not accepted.[citation needed]

See also[edit]

References and sources[edit]

  1. ^ "General Registrar's Office". IrishGenealogy.ie. Retrieved 14 September 2017.
  2. ^ Clarke, France (2009). "Cox, (Christina Mary) Kathleen". In McGuire, James; Quinn, James (eds.). Dictionary of Irish Biography. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  3. ^ Turpin J., pp. 143
  4. ^ Turpin J., DHR pp. 145–149
  5. ^ "Memorial to Dr. James Little". The British Medical Journal. 28 January 1922. Retrieved 30 May 2011.
  6. ^ Aida bust – photo and comment
  7. ^ Turpin J. in DHR, pp. 142