Kirk, Thomas (1777-1845) (DNB00)


KIRK, THOMAS (1777–1845), sculptor, born in 1777 at Newry, co. Down, was son of William Kirk and Elizabeth Bible, his wife. His parents moved to Cork when he was a child, but Kirk settled in Dublin in early life and studied sculpture in the art school of the Dublin Society of Artists. He became noted for his fine work in relief on mantelpieces, monuments, &c.; two pieces of ‘Spanish Banditti’ and ‘The Rokeby Cavern Scene’ attracted especial attention. His busts also gained him rapid reputation, and they were considered remarkable for the delicate handling of the marble and for distinctness of detail. He exhibited with the Dublin Society, and on the foundation of the Royal Hibernian Academy in 1822 he was chosen one of the foundation members, contributing to their first exhibition several busts and the colossal statue of Thomas Spring-Rice, lord Monteagle, now at Limerick. Kirk was successful in the competition for the Nelson monument in Dublin, and executed the colossal statue of him on the memorial column in Sackville Street. He also executed the statue of George IV in the Linen Hall, that of the Duke of Wellington, and a model of that of George III for the bank in Dublin, which was carried out in marble by other hands. His most important work, however, was the statue of Sir Sidney Smith, commissioned by parliament and placed in Greenwich Hospital. Many busts from his hand are in the Dublin College of Surgeons, the Royal Dublin Society's rooms, the library of Trinity College, and elsewhere in Dublin. Among them are busts of Curran, Thomas Moore, J. Wilson Croker, Mme. Catalani, and other notabilities. Among his groups were ‘The Young Champion’ executed for Lord de Grey when lord-lieutenant, ‘The Orphan Girl’ in Christ Church Cathedral, ‘The Young Dogstealer’ for Viscount Powerscourt, &c. Kirk rarely exhibited in London, but he sent busts to the Royal Academy there in 1825, and occasionally afterwards. Kirk married a Miss Eliza Robinson, and died in 1845, leaving twelve children. One son, Mr. Joseph R. Kirk, inherited his father's skill as a sculptor, and is a member of the Royal Hibernian Academy; other of his sons are the Rev. William Boyton Kirk, D.D., and the Very Rev. Francis J. Kirk of St. Mary of the Angels, Bayswater, London.

[Bolster's Quarterly Magazine, 1827, ii. 263; Sarsfield Taylor's Fine Arts in Great Britain and Ireland; Graves's Dict. of Artists, 1760–1880; information kindly supplied by Joseph R. Kirk, R.H.A.]

L. C.