Hickey, Thomas (1741–1824), artist, was born in Bachelor's Walk, Dublin, in May 1741 (probably on 13 May), the second among six sons of Noah Hickey (1689–1766), confectioner in Capel St., Dublin, and Anne Hickey; there were also two daughters. Trained at the Dublin Society's schools (1753–6), he won several prizes there and became a portrait painter; his first works date from 1758. From 1761 to 1767 he studied art in Italy. He exhibited in the Society of Arts in Dublin from 1768 to 1770, but seems not to have had sufficient employment in Ireland and moved to London, where he was admitted to the Royal Academy school (June 1770). He worked in Bath 1776–80, then set sail for India on 27 July 1780. His ship was captured on 9 August by the French and Spanish fleet, but after a short imprisonment Hickey, as a non-combatant, was released at Cadiz. He worked for three years in Lisbon, Portugal, then travelled to India, arriving in March 1784. His work was commended for the treatment of background detail and draperies, and though he was not regarded as a first-rate artist, Hickey generally produced good likenesses; in 1788 in Calcutta he published volume 1 of A history of ancient painting and sculpture. He returned to London in 1791, and in 1792–4 was official painter to the Chinese embassy of George, Lord Macartney (qv). He seems not to have produced many paintings on the journey. He returned to Madras, India, probably in 1798, taking with him his two daughters (no details of his marriage are known); in 1807 he moved to Calcutta. From 1799 he worked on preparatory drawings for a projected series of historical tableaux; though the scheme was never realised, Hickey's sketches are important likenesses of people involved in the fourth Mysore war, especially the Indian protagonists. His application to become official painter to the East India Company, to record all aspects of life in India, was rejected in 1805. In Madras once more from 1812 until his death there (burial on 20 May 1824), he repaired pictures and painted a few portraits.
His younger brother John Hickey (1751–95) was a sculptor who was born 7 November 1751 in Dublin. He was trained at the Dublin Society's schools after 1764 and had some success in Dublin before going to England, where he was admitted to the Royal Academy school (January 1772). In 1778 he was awarded the Academy gold medal for a relief sculpture, ‘The slaughter of the innocents’. Edmund Burke (qv) patronised Hickey, recommending him for public commissions, and sitting to him for two portrait busts (1785, 1791). Despite a reputation for intemperance, Hickey had other important patrons, was sculptor to the prince of Wales, and executed some fine pieces, particularly a memorial to David La Touche II (qv) in Delgany church, Co. Wicklow. He died in lodgings in Oxford St., London, 12/13 January 1795.