John Cassidy - Sculptor

This site celebrates the life and work of sculptor John Cassidy (1860 - 1939).

For the interest of anyone wishing to join us in Cassidy research, we reproduce below two biographical entries about Cassidy from reference books many years apart. Their contents may not agree when cross-checked with other sources.

Note: if any copyright holders object to publication of these extracts, please contact us.

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Website created and compiled by Charlie Hulme and Lis Nicholson, with the invaluable assistance of the John Cassidy Committee, Slane Historical Society.

Two Biographies

Tracy, W. Burnett and Pike, W.T:  Manchester and Salford at the Close of the 19th Century: Contemporary Biographies.  Brighton: W.T. Pike & Co., 1899.

(Cassidy is one of just five people represented in the 'artists' section of this comprehensive work, the others being Reginald Barber, who painted Cassidy's portrait now stored in Manchester City Art Gallery, Anderson Hague, Thomas Mostyn and Clarence Whaite.)

John Cassidy, sculptor, Lincoln Grove, Manchester. Son of P. Cassidy, landholder, co. Meath, Ireland, January 1st, 1861 [sic]; educated privately; received art education in Manchester, London and Paris; while a student gained five National medals for modelled designs and studies from life, several Queen's prizes, and many local awards for allied subjects; member and Hon. Treasurer of the Manchester Academy of Fine Arts. Mr Cassidy's career as a sculptor extends over thirteen years only, during which time he has executed public statues for the cities of Bristol, Belfast, Bolton, Aberdeen, Manchester, etc. and has had many exhibits at the Royal Academy and the New Gallery.

Snoddy, Theo: Dictionary of Irish artists : 20th century. Dublin : Wolfhound Press, 1996.

Cassidy, John, R. B. S. (1860 - 1939), sculptor. Son of a farmer, he was born on 1 January 1860 at Littlewood, Slane, Co. Meath. Five of his six brothers emigrated. He also left the small farm and served an apprenticeship as a bar assistant at the White Horse Hotel, Drogheda, and was said to have spent his spare time etching.

Two oil paintings by Cassidy of 1880 vintage are in Drogheda. One is a street scene with notable characters of the town; the other is a copy of an earlier watercolour, The Wooden House, Shop Street, Drogheda. Both these works were presented to Drogheda Corporation in 1949 by R.B. Davis, who advised that the picture of the wooden house was copied for his late father, who was said to have encouraged Cassidy to attend art school.

At the age of twenty-two, Cassidy travelled to England to study at the Manchester School of Art, under the direction of a newly appointed headmaster, R.H.A. Willis (1853-1905), a talented painter, and sculptor, and an an excellent teacher who was born at Dingle, Co. Kerry. Cassidy himself had intended to become an art teacher, but he afterwards specialised in modelling, winning several medals and prizes.

Cassidy's first commission, gained through Willis's recommendation, was for decorative modelling at the new Harris Institute building at Preston, for which Roscoe Mullins (1849-1907) was carving the figure sculpture. There followed an engagement to give demonstrations in modelling from life at the Manchester Jubilee Exhibition of 1887, during which time he was said to have modelled more than 200 heads. It was through commissions that arose from this assignment that he was able to set up as a professional sculptor.

In his first appearance at the Royal Academy in 1897, he showed a bust of Sir Charles Hallé. Two years later, again from Lincoln Grove Studio, Manchester, he exhibited at the Royal Hibernian Academy a sketch model for a colossal group in bronze: John and Sebastian Cabot, the discoverers of North America, and pioneers of British maritime enterprise. He gave the same Manchester address when he exhibited two portrait busts at the Royal Academy in 1904. His sixth and last exhibit at the RHA was an equestrian statuette of Miss O. Walker. In 1914, he was appointed a member of the Royal Society of British Sculptors, and two years later he was patronised by the Queen. Many other commissions, public and private, followed.

Cassidy showed extensively in exhibitions at the Manchester City Art Gallery, and to a lesser degree at the Royal Cambrian Academy, becoming a member in 1928, and the New Gallery, London. In the 1925 British Empire Exhibition he was represented by a bust, Annie Besant. His statue, King Edward VII, is in Whitworth Park, Manchester. The commission for the bronze statue, Edward Colston, at Bristol, was gained in competition. Public war memorials are in several English towns, including Skipton, Clayton-le-Moors, Stourbridge and Heaton Moor, now in Greater Manchester. The commission for Skipton was to execute and erect the memorial for a cost not exceeding £3,000.

There are several example of his work in the Manchester City Art Gallery. These include a bronze bust of the painter, William Powell Frith, RA (1819-1909). modelled from life in his ninetieth year; and a  bronze bust of the Manchester painter, H. Clarence Whaite. A bust of Edward John Broadfield is in marble, and a bronze figure is The Ship Canal Digger. There are also four bronze plaques and a bronze medallion, Alcock and Brown, 1919.

A full-length figure of Queen Victoria, signed and dated John Cassidy fecit 1879, was situated at Queen Victoria Memorial School, Durham Street, Belfast, but was subsequently rescued from the bulldozer and is now in the stableyard of the National Trust premises, Rowallane House, Saintfield, Co. Down. [Later relocated to the Shankill Road in Belfast.]

For many years, Cassidy, a keen ornithologist, was treasurer of the Manchester Academy of Fine Arts, a member of the art section of the Manchester Education Committee, and a governor of the Whitworth Institute. A bachelor, his last-known address was at Ashton-on-Mersey, Cheshire, and he died on 19 July 1939.


W.G. Strickland, A Dictionary of Irish Artists, Dublin 1913; Manchester Guardian, 20 July 1939; Patrick K. Cooney, Irish Independent, 15 August 1967; Dictionary of British Artists 1880-1940, Woodbridge 1976; A dictionary of Contemporary British Artists, 1919, Woodbridge 1981 ... Ann M. Stewart, Royal Hibernian Academy of Arts: Index of Exhibitors 1826-1979. Dublin 1986