Hogan, John (1800–58), sculptor, was born 14 October 1800 at Coolishal, near Tallow, Co. Waterford, third among six children, and elder of two sons of John Hogan, builder, of Tallow, and his wife Frances, of Dunmanway, daughter of Richard Cox, a first lieutenant in the Royal Navy. Her great-grandfather, Sir Richard Cox (qv), was lord chancellor of Ireland. Orphaned in early childhood, Frances Cox was living with her cousin Richard Gumbleton, who employed Hogan's father to build an additional wing to his mansion near Tallow in 1795. The two married in the following year despite the opposition of Frances's family, who withheld her fortune and refused ever to receive her.
In 1801 John Hogan moved with his young family to Cork city, where they lived at Cove St. At the age of 8 his son was sent to be educated at Cangley's school in Tallow, where he stayed till 1814. This spell at primary school was the only formal education Hogan received, though anecdotal evidence suggests that his mother fostered her children's intellectual interests. In 1816 he was apprenticed to Michael Foote, a solicitor with a practice on Patrick St., Cork. Two years later, as Hogan's lack of interest in the law had become evident, he got the opportunity to pursue his hopes of entering the architectural profession. He was apprenticed to the architect Thomas Deane (qv), to whom his father was foreman. His work for Deane consisted of drawing plans, his talent for which had become apparent some years earlier, and carving ornamental architectural features. In this latter capacity he was taking the place of Thomas Kirk (qv) who by this time had established himself as a sculptor in Dublin. It was this activity that drew Hogan towards his eventual profession of sculptor.
An important formative influence was his study of the collection of casts of antique sculpture which had been presented to the city of Cork by the prince regent in 1818. His fellow students included Daniel Maclise (qv) and Samuel Forde (qv). This was complemented by his attendance at the anatomy lectures of Dr Woodroffe at the South Infirmary, Cork. Some of his earliest work was anatomical studies carved in wood (Crawford Art Gallery, Cork), including a female skeleton subsequently used by Woodroffe in his lectures. He devoted himself to his studies full-time on the expiration of his apprenticeship to Deane (March 1820) and began to establish himself as a young artist of note with his first commissions. For the catholic bishop of Cork, Dr John Murphy (qv), he carved twenty-seven saints in wood for the north chapel (St Mary's pro-cathedral) in the city, as well as a relief panel of the ‘Last supper’ by Leonardo da Vinci (Crawford Art Gallery, Cork). The statues were thought to have been lost when the church was refurbished in the 1960s but were re-discovered in the crypt, restored, and replaced in the cathedral in the 1990s. Around this time he also carved a portrait bust in marble of the Cork banker and connoisseur George Newenham (qv). This early work, with its realistic detail, shows the great technical ability that was to be a hallmark of Hogan's work. It was at this point he came to the attention of the dealer and art critic William Paulet Carey (qv) who was so impressed by the young sculptor that he set about raising funds to send him to study in Rome. Hogan left Cork early in 1824 and, having travelled via London, Paris, and Florence, arrived in Rome at Easter.
In Rome he came under the influence of the dominant style in sculpture, neoclassicism, as exemplified by the work of Antonio Canova (1757–1822) and Bertel Thorvaldsen (1770–1844) and the theories of Johann Winckelmann (1717–68). He combined this with his own ability to render realistic detail to produce the characteristic style of his maturity. Initially, Hogan studied at the English academy under the guidance of the British sculptor John Gibson (1791–1868), who had known Canova. In this early phase of his Roman career he sought to deal with typical neoclassical themes in works such as the reclining nude in ‘The shepherd boy’ (1824/5), which was acquired by Lord Powerscourt. The scope of his ambition to emulate sculptors of established reputation may be gauged from another early work, ‘The drunken faun’ (1826; Crawford Art Gallery, Cork), where he placed the figure in a dramatic and unusual pose which nevertheless conformed to neoclassical demands for balance and aesthetic harmony.
He is best known, however, for his religious work. An outstanding example of this is his ‘Dead Christ’ (1829; St Teresa's, Clarendon St., Dublin), which yet again is a technical tour de force. Thorvaldsen declared it to be Hogan's masterpiece. In its religious intensity the work reflects Hogan's own devout catholic belief and his response to the prevailing resurgence in religious art in Europe after 1815. He returned to visit Ireland (1829), taking ‘The shepherd boy’, ‘The drunken faun’ and the ‘Dead Christ’ with him, which were well received. Having thus established his reputation both at home and in Italy, he was responsible for much of the most significant religious sculpture in Ireland after catholic emancipation. He made his second visit to Ireland in 1832 where, along with Daniel Maclise, he was awarded a gold medal by the Cork Society for the Promotion of the Fine Arts. In January 1833 he was elected an honorary member of the society. This set the pattern for his time in Rome, in that he maintained the links with Ireland which furnished him with his patronage, while his popularity there was enhanced by his residence abroad. Evidence for his standing in Rome is found in his election to the Society of the Virtuosi of the Pantheon, a society of painters, sculptors, and architects, the titular head of which was the pope. He was the first non-Italian to be so honoured.
In 1840 he received the commission for the funerary monument in Carlow cathedral to Bishop James Doyle (qv). This work heralded his emergence as a sculptor of commemorative and public monuments and, with its inclusion of the figure of Éire as a motif, it embodies both the religious and nationalist outlooks of post-emancipation Ireland. He returned to this symbolism in his portrait of Valentine Lawless, Lord Cloncurry (qv), ‘Hibernia with the bust of Cloncurry’ (1846; NGI), a work generally seen as his masterpiece. His most strictly classical monument is ‘Jeanette Farrell’ (c.1843; St Andrew's, Westland Row, Dublin), a relief which, with its strongly linear quality, shows the influence of John Flaxman (1755–1826). This contrasts with the dramatic, almost baroque quality of his monument to William Beamish (qv) (1844; St Michael's, Blackrock, Cork). Among his statues of public figures of this period are those of Thomas Drummond (qv), under-secretary for Ireland (City Hall, Dublin), and that of William Crawford for the Cork Savings Bank. In these works his idealising approach ran counter to the more general tendency towards realism and contemporary detail as found in the work of sculptors such as John Henry Foley (qv).
On visiting Ireland for the fourth time in 1843 he met Daniel O'Connell (qv), whose statue he completed in 1846 (City Hall, Dublin). He also began his association with Loreto Abbey, Rathfarnham, Co. Dublin, for which he made two altar fronts in the mid 1840s. Against a background of political upheaval and military unrest in Italy, he returned to live permanently in Dublin in 1849. His final years in Ireland were something of a disappointment as he believed that his talents were not fully appreciated by the Irish public. He failed to gain two important commissions: the monument to Archbishop Daniel Murray (qv) (pro-cathedral, Dublin), which went to Thomas Farrell (qv), and the Thomas Moore (qv) statue (College St., Dublin), which went to Christopher Moore (qv). However, he continued to be patronised by figures from across the spectrum of Irish society. He himself was not inclined to participate in the artistic life of Dublin: he refused to become a member of the RHA, and – being by temperament sensitive to any perceived slight – was unsuited to the self-promotion required to attain a greater level of success and recognition. That he did continue to receive significant artistic opportunities in his later years is shown by his statue (1853–7; City Hall, Dublin) of Thomas Davis (qv), a friend of Hogan's whom he greatly admired, and in 1857 he was commissioned to design the plaque ‘Civil and religious liberty’ for the Wellington monument (Phoenix Park, Dublin), which he left unfinished at his death.
In 1855 he suffered a stroke, and though he recovered somewhat, his health declined. He died on 27 March 1858 at his home, 14 Wentworth Place (latterly Hogan Place), Dublin. His funeral took place in the church of St Andrew, Westland Row, Dublin, and he was buried in Glasnevin cemetery. He married (1837) Cornelia Bevignani in Rome; they had four sons and eight daughters.