Elmore, Alfred (1815–81), painter, was born 18 June 1815 in Clonakilty, Co. Cork, the son of Dr John Richard Elmore, a retired army surgeon and later a linen manufacturer in Clonakilty, and his wife Anne (née Callanan). In 1827 the family moved to London, where Elmore pursued an early interest in art by drawing from sculpture in the British Museum. He entered the Royal Academy schools in 1832 and exhibited for the first time at the annual academy exhibition two years later when he submitted ‘A scene from an old play’. Between 1833 and 1839 he made a number of visits to Paris, where he studied old master paintings in the Louvre and took classes in life drawing. During this period he painted a number of paintings with religious themes such as ‘Christ crowned with thorns’ and ‘The crucifixion’, shown at the British Institution in 1837 and 1839 respectively. Alfred's father was a friend and associate of Daniel O'Connell (qv), who commissioned Alfred to paint the ‘Martyrdom of St Thomas a Becket’, which was exhibited at the RA in 1840 and later presented by O'Connell to the church of St Andrew, Westland Row, Dublin.
In the summer of 1840 Elmore left England for a tour of Europe. He travelled first to Germany, where he studied in Munich for a period of three months. He then went on to Italy, visiting Venice, Bologna, and Florence before reaching Rome, where he stayed till 1842. On his return he established himself as a successful painter of historical scenes with works such as ‘The origin of the Guelph and Ghibelline quarrel’, which was well received at the RA exhibition of 1845. In that year Elmore was elected an associate member of the academy; he became a full member in 1857. In contemporary reviews of his work he received particular praise for the originality of his choice and treatment of subjects taken from Italian, French, and Italian history as well as from Shakespeare. A number of his most popular works were engraved. More rarely he took his subject from contemporary life. The best-known example of this is ‘On the brink’ (Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge), exhibited at the RA in 1865. Here he depicts a woman, obviously distressed, outside a recognisable gaming house. The empty purse in her hand implies she has gambled her money and may now, having lost her security and so undermined her social position, be vulnerable to predatory advances. This moralising theme, the potential fall of women through seduction, is paralleled in the work of other Victorian artists such as William Holman Hunt (1827–1910).
Elmore's abilities as a draughtsman are particularly evident in his work as a watercolourist. Works such as ‘Two women on a balcony’ (Victoria & Albert Museum, London) show similarities with the work of the English painter Richard Parkes Bonington (1802–28), with whom his work has on occasion been confused. Bonington's influence is evident in the treatment of the figures and the use of rich colour.
Elmore enjoyed success throughout his career. His work was included in the international exhibitions held in London (1851, 1862) and in Paris (1855, 1878). Writing in 1862 William Sandby asserted that ‘his pictures deservedly rank high among the works of modern painters’ (Sandby, ii, 304). In 1878 Elmore achieved recognition in Ireland when he was elected an honorary member of the RHA. He died 24 January 1881 in London and was buried at Kensal Green cemetery. In 1849 he married Jane Chandler; their daughter Edith Elmore was an artist. On 5 May 1883 the sale of the contents of his studio was held in London at Christie's.