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 Frank Charles Hennessey  (1893 - 1941)

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Lived/Active: Ontario/Michigan / Canada/England      Known for: landscape, animal, insects and genre painting, drawing, illustration

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from Auction House Records.
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Frank Charles Hennessey BA, OSA, RCA, FRSA (1894 – 1941) (1)

A prominent Canadian painter, draftsman and illustrator, Frank Charles Hennessey was born in Ottawa, Ontario where he lived his whole life and died. Hennessey’s works are in several Canadian museums, including the National Gallery of Canada.

His mediums included oil, pastel, watercolor, gouache, charcoal and pen & ink. His subjects were landscapes, lakes, rivers, coastal views, the Arctic, animals, birds, insects and genre. His styles included Realism*, Modernism*, Impressionism* and Plein Air*. The AskART images are good illustrations of his work.

Hennessey had a Bachelor of Arts degree from Albion College, Albion, Michigan (1916). However, as an artist, he is generally considered self taught. He’d been contributing illustrations to periodicals since he was a preteen (Ottawa Journal c.1900, Outdoor Life 1913) and he accompanied Captain J.E. Bernier on an arctic exploration as an assistant naturalist and artist when he was 14 (1908 – 1909). (2)(3)

Hennessey was a member of the Ontario Society of Artists* (1932), the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts* (Associate 1934, Academician 1941), and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, London, England (1938).

He exhibited with the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts from 1921 to 1941, the Art Association of Montreal [now Montreal Museum of Fine Arts] from 1922 to 1940, and the Ontario Society of Artists from 1928 to 1940. His works were also included in the “British Empire Exhibition”, London, England (1924 and 1925); “Exposition d’art Canadien”, Musée du Jeu de Paume, Paris (1927); “British Empire Trade Exhibition”, Buenos Aires, Argentina (1931); “Fifty Years of Painting in Canada”, Art Gallery of Toronto, Ontario [now Art Gallery of Ontario] (1949); and in “Canadian Paintings of the 1930s”, Art Gallery of Ontario (1967).

Hennessey’s illustrations were used in the books Birds of Eastern Canada, Birds of Canada, The Birds of Alberta, Birds of Western Canada, Canadian Land Birds, a Pocket Field Guide, A Nature Lover in British Columbia, An Introduction to Bird Study in British Columbia, and Under the Lily and the Rose, A Short History of Canada for Children (see AskART book references). Most of them have been reprinted several times.

According to the Canadian Heritage Information Network* and individual museum websites, his works are in the permanent collections of the Agnes Etherington Art Centre (Kingston, Ontario), Art Gallery of Alberta (Edmonton), Art Gallery of Greater Victoria (B.C.), Art Gallery of Nova Scotia (Halifax), Art Gallery of Ontario (Toronto), Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery (Concordia University, Montreal), Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (Quebec), Museum London (Ontario), Quebec Museum of Fine Arts (Quebec City), Riverbrink Art Museum (Queenston, Ontario), Robert McLaughlin Gallery (Oshawa, Ontario), and the National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa).


(1) Please note: Hennessey’s lengthy obituary in the Ottawa Citizen (November 11, 1941 "Frank Hennessey, Noted Painter, Is Found Dead") states his birth date is January 12, 1893. Some sources use this date (1893), notably The Collector's Dictionary of Canadian Artists at Auction and Biographical Index of Artists in Canada; the National Gallery of Canada and A Dictionary of Canadian Artists… use 1894.

(2) “In 1906 he [Bernier] began a series of extensive voyages (1906 – 1907,1908 – 1909,1910 – 1911) to various islands in the Canadian Eastern Arctic.” Source: Page 272, University of Calgary, Arctic Profiles website

(3) “In 1921 he joined the entomology division of the Department of Agriculture in the Science Service section [as an artist] where he continued to work until his death.” Source: "A Dictionary of Canadian Artists, Volume Two, G – Jackson” and his obituary in the Ottawa Citizen.


Biographical Index of Artists in Canada (2003), by Evelyn de Rostaing McMann (see AskART book references)

The Collector's Dictionary of Canadian Artists at Auction (2001), by Anthony R. Westbridge and Diana L. Bodnar (see AskART book references)

A to Z of Canadian Art: artists & art terms (1997), by Blake McKendry (see AskART book references)

Art and Architecture in Canada (1991), by Loren R. Lerner and Mary F. Williamson (see AskART book references)

Montreal Museum of Fine Arts: Spring Exhibitions 1880 – 1970 (1988), by Evelyn de R. McMann (see AskART book references)

Royal Canadian Academy of Arts: Exhibitions and Members, 1880 – 1979 (1981), by Evelyn de R. McMann (see AskART book references)

Passionate Spirits: A History of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, 1880 – 1980 (1980), by Rebecca Sisler (see AskART book references)

Creative Canada: A Biographical Dictionary of Twentieth Century Creative and Performing Arts (1972), by Helen M. Rodney (see AskART book references)

A Dictionary of Canadian Artists, Volume Two, G – Jackson (1970), by Colin S. MacDonald (see AskART book references)

Art Gallery of Ontario – The Canadian Collection (1970), by Helen Pepall Bradfield (see AskART book references)

The National Gallery of Canada: Catalogue of Paintings and Sculpture, Volume III (1960), by R.H. Hubbard (see AskART book references)

Canadian Art - Its Origin and Development (1943) (paperback 1967), by William Colgate (see AskART book references)

Canadian Landscape Painters (1932), by A.H. Robson; Ryerson, Toronto (227 pages, color).

The National Gallery of Canada Catalogue (1931), by National Gallery of Canada (see AskART book references)

Canadian Section of Fine Arts: British Empire Exposition, London, 1925 (1925), by National Gallery of Canada (see AskART book references)

Canadian Section of Fine Arts: British Empire Exposition, London, 1924 (1924), by National Gallery of Canada (see AskART book references)

Obituary – Page 14, The Ottawa Citizen, November 11, 1941 "Frank Hennessey, Noted Painter, Is Found Dead"

Canadian Heritage Information Network* (biography, museums)

Centre for Contemporary Canadian Art* (OSA exhibitions)

* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see Glossary

Prepared and contributed by M.D. Silverbrooke.

** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at
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