Allan, Henry (1865–1912), painter, was born 18 June 1865 in Dundalk, Co. Louth, youngest son of William Allan, distiller, of Bachelor's Walk, Dundalk, and his wife Anne, daughter of the Rev. Solomon Browne, presbyterian minister of Castledawson, Co. Londonderry. He began his training as an artist in Belfast and Dublin before travelling to Antwerp, where he entered the Académie Royale in the summer of 1884. There he joined a large group of young Irish artists who had travelled abroad to pursue their studies during the 1880s, working alongside other Irish artists such as Thomas Moynan (qv) and Dermod O'Brien (qv). (Vincent van Gogh studied at the Académie for a brief period around this time (1885–early 1886)). Allan began his studies in the antique class, and in May 1885 was awarded fifth prize for drawing from the antique figure. This was followed by studies in the life class with Karel Verlat, where he won fourth prize for painting from the model in 1887. Many of the Irish artists in Antwerp went on to paint in France, but Allan returned home to Ireland in 1888.
In common with many of the Irish students in Antwerp, Allan was influenced by the work of artists associated with the Hague school such as Jozef Israels. These artists, working between c.1860 and 1900, painted landscapes and views of everyday life which show a concern with capturing the effects of light in a way comparable to the work of French artists associated with impressionism. They were also inspired by the great Dutch painters of the seventeenth century, and this element of nostalgia may be detected in Allan's painting ‘A Dutch interior’ (NGI), which may be the same work he exhibited at the RHA in 1890 as ‘Flemish interior’.
He began to exhibit at the RHA from 1889, when his address was given as Blackcanneway House, Downpatrick, Co. Down. From 1893 he settled in Dublin, the RHA exhibition catalogues recording various addresses in the Rathmines area. He continued to send pictures to the RHA annual exhibition until 1909, winning the Albert prize for his painting ‘Little matchseller’ in 1893. His work was also included in the Cork International Exhibition (1902) and the Irish International Exhibition in Dublin (1907). In London he was represented in the Guildhall exhibition of works by Irish painters (1904), and in the Whitechapel exhibition of Irish art (1913).
Allan was elected an associate member of the RHA on 18 April 1895 and a member on 18 January 1901, and held the post of treasurer 1910–11. He died 2 September 1912 in Dublin after a long illness and was buried in Mount Jerome cemetery.