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 John F. Kavanagh  (1853 - 1898)

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Lived/Active: Ohio / Canada      Known for: figure and landscape painter, portrait drawing

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John Kavanaugh is primarily known as John F. Kavanagh

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Ad Code: 4
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from Auction House Records.
Laundress in the Woods
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
A Canadian-born painter, John Kavanagh was active in Cleveland, Ohio beginning 1872.  He first worked as a hand-colorer of photographs and did portrait drawings that he exhibited in the City Hall in Cleveland.  He shared a studio with Frank Tomkins, a painter, and traveled with him to Munich, attending the Munich Academy for two years and winning a bronze medal.  He was also recognized by King Ludwig of Bavaria and had a special invitation to the King's palace.

In 1884, Kavanagh returned to Cleveland and did crayon work and private art tutoring.  One of his pupils was Theodate Pope, the 18-year old daughter of A.A. Pope, who was a wealthy industrialist and collector of European paintings.  Theodate, who later became the sixth woman to be a licensed architect in Connecticut, learned of Kavanaugh's wish to study in Paris, and persuaded her father to support him financially for study abroad.

As a resutl,Kavanagh spent three years in Paris, 1886-1889, as a student of Gustave Boulanger and Jules-Joseph Lefebvre at the Academie Julian and exhibited at the annual salon.  In 1889, his Salon entry was Washer Woman, a French-peasant scene, later owned by the Union Club of Cleveland after having been in his own personal possession and exhibited in 1893 at the Chicago Exposition.

When Kavanagh returned to Cleveland from Europe, he was much lauded for his artistic accomplishments, and he was elected President of the Cleveland Art Club.  However, despite his success abroad, his market was not strong in Cleveland.  He changed from his more grandiose Parisian style paintings to small decorative landscapes, but this did not give him the financial boost he had hoped for.

By 1897, he was suffering badly from tuberculosis, and gave up painting.  The next year, he sold the items in his studio by lottery, paid his debts with the proceeds, and died twelve days later at age forty five.

Marianne Berardi, "The Union League Club of Cleveland", American Art Review, October 2005, pp. 118-125

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