Oliver Sheppard
Biography of Nationalist Irish Sculptor Noted for The Wexford Pikemen.

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Oliver Sheppard (1865-1941)

Irish sculptor Oliver Sheppard is best known for his bronze sculpture idealizing the Irish struggle for independence. His most notable works include the Death of Cuchulainn, 1911 (GPO, Dublin), The Wexford Pikeman, 1905 (Wexford town) and statue of the poet, James Clarence Mangan, 1909 (Stephen's Green, Dublin).

Bold romantic sculpture was Sheppard's real forte, although his smaller stone sculpture reveals a gentler more intimate charm.

Best Known Sculptures

Aida, Marble, Crawford Gallery (1935)

Death of Chuchulainn (1911)

The Wexford Pikemen (1905)

For a guide to the chronology
and evolution of 3-D art,
see: Sculpture History.

Sheppard was born into a Protestant family at Cookstown, County Tyrone in 1865; his father was an artisan-sculptor. His family soon moved to Dublin. Between 1884 and 1888 he studied at the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art, while also working at the Royal Hibernian Academy Life Drawing School. In 1888 he moved to London and continued his studies at the National Art Training School, South Kensington for 2 years. It was here that he absorbed French modelling techniques from Edouard Lanteri (French sculptor and modeller) and then went on to attend the Acadamie Julian and Acadamie Colarossi in Paris.

By 1900, subject matter in paintings and sculpture in Ireland had become less nationalistic, as artists became more interested in the medium rather than the message. This was reflected in most art movements throughtout Europe at the time. However, there were a number of Irish artists that still choose to continue with Irish themes. This was reflected in literary circles by the poet W.B. Yeats, in painting by his brother Jack B. Yeats and in sculpture, among others, by Oliver Sheppard. All were closely connected to the Celtic Revival.

For more facts, see: Plastic Art.
For more about arts in Ireland
see: Irish Art Questions.

For a list of the world's best ever
artists, see: Greatest Sculptors.

For a list of modern artists
see: 20th Century Sculptors.

The Death of Cuchulainn is considered Sheppard's masterpiece and an important work of Irish art. It is a bronze figure of the mythological warrior-hero Cuchulainn, who continued to fight against his enemies while gravely wounded and tied to a tree. It was created in 1911 and later chosen by De Valera in 1935 as the national memorial to the 1916 Rising. It can still be viewed today in the General Post Office, O'Connell Street, Dublin.

Sheppard's other well known work, The Wexford Pikeman, which commerated the 1798 United Irishmen uprising, was unveiled in 1905 at an elaborate ceremony attended by over 30,000 people in Wexford town.

The Best Plastic Art
For the most important works, see: Greatest Sculptures Ever.

After this work, Sheppard received further commissions, including another memorial to the 1798 uprising in Enniscorthy (completed 1908) and a memorial sculpture of the 19th century poet James Clarence Mangan, erected 1909 in St Stephens Green, Dublin.


Sheppard taught at the Leicester School of Art in 1892, then at the Nottingham School of Art in 1894 and finally moved to the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art in 1907 where he taught until 1937. One of his pupils being the nationalist sculptor Albert Power. He exhibited at the Royal Hibernian Academy from 1891, becoming an Associate in 1899 and a Member in 1901. He was also professor of sculpture at the Academy and a founding member of the Royal Society of British Sculptors.

Sculpture Appreciation: Ireland
To learn how to evaluate nationalist Irish sculptors like Oliver Sheppard, see: How to Appreciate Modern Sculpture. For earlier works, please see: How to Appreciate Sculpture.

More About Sculpture

For works from Ancient Greece, see Greek Sculpture. For other important Irish sculptors, read about the neo-classical John Hogan, the Anglo-Irish John Henry Foley, the Northern Ireland sculptress Rosamund Praeger, the traditional stone sculptor Seamus Murphy, the Surrealist FE McWilliam, the Polish-Irish sculptress Alexandra Wejchert, the expressionist Edward Delaney, the contemporary steel sculptor Conor Fallon, the bird artist Oisin Kelly, the public artist Eamonn O'Doherty and the figure sculptor Rowan Gillespie.

• For more facts about sculptors and contemporary sculpture in Ireland, see: Irish Art Guide.
• For details of wood sculpture, see: Wood Carving.
• For information about ceramics sculpture, see: Ceramic Art.
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