Mulcahy, Jeremiah Hodges (1804–89), artist and art teacher, was born in Limerick on 15 September 1804, the son of Ellen Sheehan and James Mulcahy. His early life is shrouded in mystery, but it is thought his parents came from Cork, where they were married at St Peter and Paul's church in 1802. In his teenage years he attended an art school in Limerick and received tuition from Morris O'Connor. An exhibition was held there in 1819 or 1822 showing the work of the pupils and works of the great masters on loan from local art collections.
Mulcahy is regarded as a regional artist rather than one of Ireland's outstanding painters. Landscape works dominated his oeuvre and are, in the main, noteworthy for their content and topographical importance. He was inspired by the styles of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century landscape artists and also by the ideals of the Romantic movement. In his early years, from the 1830s onwards, he received patronage from many of the gentry and aristocracy of Munster, including, in Co. Limerick, the earl and countess of Dunraven, the de Veres of Curragh Chase, the Knight of Glin, Lord Mounteagle, and John Croker of Ballinagarde, and, in Co. Clare, Augustus Stafford O'Brien, MP, of Cratloe Woods House, and Major George Vandeleur of Kilrush. In 1839 Mulcahy became a member of the Freemasons of Ireland at Eden Lodge in Limerick, enabling him to develop connections, friends, and potential patrons.
Among the most illustrative representations of the country estates of Mulcahy's patrons are several early scenes of the house and park at Curragh Chase (all dated 1834), the home of the famous literary family the De Veres. Also of topographical importance are ‘A view of Glin, Co. Limerick’ (1839), ‘A view of Ballinagarde, Co. Limerick’ (1852), and ‘A view from Killiney Hill – looking to Bray’ (1864). Mulcahy confined his travels to Ireland and England. He was commissioned to paint the English seat of his patron Augustus Stafford O'Brien at Blatherwycke Park, where he resided at intervening periods from 1839 to 1842.
Mulcahy's first marriage was to Mary Callanane, on 3 November 1833. They had two children: the first died at birth in 1835 and the second, Francis Mulcahy, was born on 5 November 1836. However, Mary Callanane died 11 February 1837. In 1842 the artist opened his art academy at 19 Catherine Street, Limerick. The local gentry, merchant families, and military were among those who attended classes in drawing, watercolour, map painting, and oils. Mulcahy met his second wife, Christina Jackson, of Killavilla, Roscrea, Co. Tipperary, while she was a student at his school. They were married on 20 April 1853 at Gretna Hall, Gretna Green, Scotland. It is suspected they eloped, as Jackson was merely sixteen years old and Mulcahy by then fifty-two years old. The couple had seven children, three of whom survived, before Christina passed away on 3 March 1862 at the age of only twenty-four, three months after giving birth to their seventh child. In the same year Mulcahy closed the school in Limerick and moved to Dublin with his children. The youngest child died in 1863.
Mulcahy exhibited at the RHA from 1843 until 1878. In 1861 he was proposed for election as a member at the annual meeting of the RHA, his opponent being the English-based artist Francis Danby (qv), who was the more prominent of the two. Mulcahy was defeated by one vote. Danby died in the same year, and Mulcahy began his battle for recognition among his fellow artists. He exhibited extensively in Ireland at Cork, Dublin, and Limerick, notably at the art union exhibitions and the great industrial exhibitions of Cork and Dublin. In 1843 he showed at the Royal Irish Art Union, where he won a prize of £1,500 for a painting entitled ‘Landscape composition’. He also exhibited in England at the London Art Union and British Institution, among others. Mulcahy's career peaked during the mid-nineteenth century: during his later years opportunities for patronage were scarce. He became an ARHA in 1875 but after 1878 ceased to exhibit there, and in 1888 his position as an associate was withdrawn. Mulcahy died 25 December 1889 at his home, at 11 Avondale Terrace, Harold's Cross, Dublin, and was buried in the family vault at St John's church, St John's Square, Limerick.
Mulcahy's personal papers are in a private family collection. The NGI holds a collection of works consisting of prints, drawings, and three oil paintings, the Limerick City Gallery holds a drawing and three oil paintings, and there are three portraits of unknown sitters attributed to him at TCD. Mulcahy was responsible for five illustrations in S. C. Hall's (qv) Ireland: its scenery and character (1850). A portrait by John O'Keeffe is in the University of Limerick.