John Henry Nelson, artist and sculptor

He was born in Sligo, Ireland about 1800, but his name does not occur as an artist until 1834, when he sent, from Wormwood Gate, a "Portrait of an Artist" to the Royal Hibernian Academy. f sadier lrgHe next exhibited in 1837 four portraits, including one of "the Rev. Thomas Flinn, chaplain to the Grand Lodge of Freemasons in Ireland"; in 1838 eight portraits, including "John Jones, Sheriff of Dublin," and in 1844 seven portraits, including one of "Francis Blackburne, Master of the Rolls," and one of "the Rev. Franc Sadleir, Provost of Trinity College," painted in 1843, which now hangs in the Provost's House.

In Jul 1839 he had married Diana Arabella only daughter of the Rev. James Allett Leigh of 15 Upper Kensington Green, late of Leatherlake House, Surrey. However in Dec 1841 he was living with an Ann Metcalfe from Newport In Westbury upon Trym, Gloucestershire where his wife found him after he’d been absent for two years. They were divorced on 24 Dec 1842

In 1844 he took to sculpture, and was awarded a prize of £5 by the Royal Irish Art Union for a Head of Sappho, his first attempt. In the following year he exhibited a "Bust of a Gentleman" at the Royal Hibernian Academy, and in 1846 a portrait in oils of "Sir William Rowan Hamilton" and a "Bust of Rev. Alexander McDonnell of Trinity College." His "Venus Attiring," a statue modelled from life, and certified by some of the leading Dublin surgeons to be "anatomically correct" was awarded a prize of £15 by the Royal Irish Art Union in 1845, and was exhibited in 1846 at 13 D'Olier Street by the artist, who endeavoured to obtain subscriptions to enable him to execute it in marble. The undraped figure, which one critic asserted had more delicacy than any of Canova's Three Graces, was said to have "attracted the notice of many patrons of art who expressed much interest in the future prospects of the sculptor." These proved to be bleak indeed. He took his masterwork, the result of "two years of unremitting toil", to Manchester, and while exhibiting it there, he died on 26 December 1847, leaving a widow and four children without provision.

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