Portrait, James Sinton Sleator PRHA (1885-1950), 'Alfred O'Rahilly'

2 Feb 2021

Painting in oil on canvas, framed, of Prof. Alfred O'Rahilly (President, University College, Cork, 1943-54).

Ref: UCCHS.Portrait007 © University College Cork

Portrait, Alfred O’Rahilly. James Sinton Sleator PRHA, Northern Irish. Oil on canvas. 1949. University College Cork.

Professor O’Rahilly (President, 1943-1954) is seated, wearing the Vice-Chancellor’s robe. The hands are clasped together at the front.

Artist: James Sinton Sleator PRHA (27/6/1885-19/1/1950)

Provenance: Commissioned in 1949 to mark the centenary of the opening of Queen's College Cork; funded by the friends of President O'Rahilly (see minute of Governing Body meeting, 28 March 1950). Exhibited at Royal Hibernian Academy in 1949. See Denis Gwynn, 'An appreciation [of Mr James Sleator], Cork Examiner, 20/01/1950, p.4: in which he mentions that this portrait was completed and exhibited in 1949.


More about the artist

Sleator was born James Samuel Slator, son of William and Margaret Slator, at Derrycarne, County Armagh.  James studied at the Belfast School of Art and, as a mature student, studied at the Metropolitan School of Art Dublin. Here he studied under the Irish artist Sir William Orpen (1878-1931). In 1913 he was included in an exhibition of Irish art at the Whitechapel Gallery, London, where he exhibited a still-life. In the following year he was an assistant to Orpen in London and gave some painting lessons to Winston Churchill on the introduction of Orpen. In 1915 he returned to Dublin where he taught at the Metropolitan School and exhibited for the first time at the Royal Hibernian Academy. He was elected an Associate of the RHA in 1917 and became a member also in that year. In the early 1920s he went to Florence where he painted landscapes and portraits, returning after five years to London as a portrait painter. Sleator established a successful portrait practice and exhibited at the Royal Academy and the Royal Society of Portrait Painters. As Orpen’s studio assistant Sleator often painted the sitter’s clothing and background areas in his master's portraits, and shortly after Orpen’s death in 1931, Sleator was asked to complete a number of his unfinished commissions. In 1935 he was made an honorary member of the Ulster Arts Club. He returned to Ireland in 1941 where he took up residence in Dublin and was elected at first Secretary and then President of the Royal Hibernian Academy. Sleator died in Dublin at 15 Ely Place (Academy House), where he had been living for some years, in 1950. He is buried at Mount Jerome cemetery, Dublin.

There are self-portraits at the Armagh County Museum and the National Gallery of Ireland. The NGI also has a collection of life studies by the artist. His portraits of Orpen and Jack B. Yeats are at the Crawford Art Gallery, Cork.

James Sinton Sleator also painted the portraits of Sir Robert J. Kane (President, Queen’s College, Cork, 1845-73), Dr William K. Sullivan (President, Queen’s College, Cork, 1873-90) and Prof. Patrick J. Merriman (President, 1919-43).

Read more about Alfred O'Rahilly here


Sources birth of artist Lurgan, Group Registration ID 11129185 (not the cancelled registration in 1885 Group Registration ID 10710571); death of artist: Dublin South, Group Registration ID 2247482, aged 60 (sic).

Ruth Devine, ‘Sleator, James Samuel (Sinton)’, Dictionary of Irish Biography

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