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Public Statues and Sculpture Association

Andrew O’Connor (1874–1941)

Sculptor born at Worcester, Massachusetts, the son of a sculptor of Irish extraction. He studied under his father, and had already worked in Chicago, Boston and New York before leaving for Europe in 1894, intending to train as a painter. In London he met John Singer Sargent, and became his sculptor-pupil, assisting him in his Fulham Road studio with the relief elements of the Boston Library mural, depicting The Triumph of Religion. Much later, following Sargent’s death in 1925, a bronze cast of the Crucifixion from this mural decoration was erected in the crypt of St Paul’s Cathedral in London as a memorial to the painter. Back in America in 1897, O’Connor became the pupil of the sculptor, Daniel Chester French. French procured for him the commission for the Vanderbilt Memorial bronze doors for St Bartholomew’s church in New York. This commission was followed by one for the typanum and frieze above the doors (1902). By 1905 O’Connor was resident in Paris, where he was befriended by Rodin and became a regular Salon exhibitor. A major project from this period was O’Connor’s 1906 entry to a competition for a Monument to Commodore Charles Barry, for a site in Washington DC. This consisted of a windblown figure of the man known as ‘the father of the American Navy’, standing in front of a low screen, on which were poetically depicted in relief ‘The Sufferings of the Irish People’. The competition was won by another Irish-American sculptor, John J. Boyle. In 1910, O’Connor was again thwarted in competition, this time for a statue of General Alvear for Buenos Aires, a competition which was won by the French sculptor Antoine Bourdelle. With the outbreak of war in 1914, O’Connor returned to the United States where he collaborated with the novelist, Edith Wharton, in her organisation, War Charities in France. It was at an exhibition in New York, held under the aegis of this organisation, that he showed the first version of his Triple Cross, in which Christ was shown in three different manifestations; ‘Desolation’, ‘Consolation’ and ‘Triumph’. In 1924, a commission, which O’Connor had been given before the outbreak of war, finally reached fruition. This was for a statue of Peace by Justice, a strong striding female figure in marble, a gift from the American government to the Peace Palace in The Hague. It still stands on the main stairs of this Flemish renaissance style building, designed by the architects Cordonnier and van der Steur. He also created for the United States a number of significant public monuments, including the 1898 Spanish American War Memorial (1917) for Worcester (Massachusetts), and the equestrian statue of General Lafayette (1924), for Baltimore. In 1918, his statue of a youthful Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated in Springfield (Illinois). Busts of Lincoln by O’Connor are in the American ambassador’s residence in Dublin and in the Royal Exchange, London. Commissions for public monuments took him to Ireland in 1931. One was for a colossal statue of Daniel O’Connell for the Bank of Ireland, the other for an eighty-foot-high statue of Christ the King, to stand at the end of the pier at Dun Laoghaire, then known as The Gateway to Ireland. The dishevelled, defiant and Rodinesque O’Connell statue was completed in the following year, but no progress had been made with the Christ the King when the Second World War broke out. O’Connor died in Dublin. In his last ten years he had worked in studios at Leixlip Castle (County Kildare) and in London. After his death, in 1949 a cast of the Triple Cross was produced, and a project was set afoot to erect it overlooking Dun Laoghaire harbour. Ecclesiastical intrans­igence delayed its erection until 1978.

Bibliography: T. Snoddy, Dictionary of Irish Artists, Dublin, 1996; P. Ward-Jackson, “Andrew O’Connor”, in Art and Architecture of Ireland, vol. III, Sculpture 1600–2000, (ed. P. Murphy), Dublin, New Haven and London, 1914; P. Ward-Jackson, Public Sculpture of the City of London, Liverpool, 2003, pp. 322, 329–30.

Philip Ward-Jackson, June 2024

O’Connor, Andrew

Andrew O’Connor in his studio in Clamart, Paris, c.1905, with an unidentified stone sculpture. Written on reverse in pencil in an unknown hand: ‘Epr sans retoucher no 4’ (photo: National Gallery of Ireland, Ref IE NGI/IA/OCO1/1/1/4)