Thomas Kirk Was the only son of William Kirk, a native of Edinburgh who had settled in Newry, and after his marriage with Elizabeth Bible removed to Cork, where his son Thomas was born in 1781. After studying in the Dublin Society’s Schools, where he won medals in 1797 and 1800, he obtained employment with Henry Darley, stone-cutter, for whom he did carvings for chimney-pieces. Starting for himself as a sculptor at 21 Jervis Street, he quickly gained recognition as a clever artist and was chosen to execute the colossal figure of Nelson for the memorial column in Sackville Street erected in 1808. The statue, of Portland stone, thirteen feet high, represents Nelson leaning on a capstan. For it the sculptor was paid £300, the material being supplied to him. His connection with this work brought Kirk many commissions for monumental work.
In 1810 he exhibited for the first time, sending to the Society of Artists in Hawkins Street “Piety and Chastity,” a monument to be erected to the Rev. T. A. Clarke; and he also exhibited in 1811, 1812, 1814, 1817, 1819 and 1821. He executed not only many important public monuments and statues, but was also much employed in portrait busts, which were esteemed for their accurate and expressive modelling, their delicate handling and distinctness of detail, and their faithfulness as likenesses. On the formation of the Royal Hibernian Academy in 1823 Kirk was chosen one of the original members, and he was afterwards a regular contributor to its exhibitions.
He also exhibited in the Royal Academy in 1825, 1837 and 1839, in the latter year showing his last important work, a statue of “Sir Sidney Smith,” commissioned by the Government for Greenwich Hospital. His “Orphan Girl” was at the Society of British Artists in 1832.
The above extract is available at: http://www.libraryireland.com/irishartists/thomas-kirk.php. It originally appeared in Walter G. Stickland, A dictionary of Irish artists (Dublin, 1913).
Kirk was commissioned by the Vandeleur family of Kilrush, County Clare to create two lavish monuments to deceased family members in the Church of Ireland chapel in the town. The exceptionally well-executed memorials are visible below.
Sacred to the memory of John Ormsby Vandeleur, one of His Majesty’s most Honourable Privy Council in Ireland, who departed this life on the 9th day of November, in the year of Our Lord 1828, in the 63rd year of his age. This monument was erected by his children to perpetuate the remembrances of the many virtues of a beloved, revered and lamented father, also to the memory of their affectionate mother, The Lady Frances, wife of the Rt. Hon. John Ormsby Vandeleur, and daughter of the Marquess of Drogheda, who departed this life, Oct. 3rd 1833 in the 57th year of her age. Beloved by all for her many virtues and sincerely and deservedly regretted.”
As mentioned, Kirk was chosen to execute the statue of Nelson (1809) which was located on O’Connell Street, Dublin.
Nelson’s Pillar was blown up in 1966.
Another of Kirk’s commissions was the statue (1829) of Thomas Spring-Rice, Lord Monteagle, MP and Chancellor of the Exchequer. The lofty statue of Spring-Rice is still extant and can be viewed in the Peoples’ Park, Pery Square, Limerick.
Kirk died in Dublin on the 19 April, 1845, and was buried at Mount Jerome. The Freeman’s Journal carried his extensive obituary:
On his tomb is a life-sized female figure, the work of his son Joseph R. Kirk (q.v.).