John Joseph Tracey (1813-1873) Painter of Classical Subjects and Irish Scenes



He was born in Dublin in 1813. His mother was housekeeper to George Meade of 6 Malpas Street. Displaying a bent for art Meade put him into the Dublin Society’s School in 1829 and there he made good progress, carrying off prizes in 1830 and 1831. In the latter year he sent two classical subjects to the Royal Hibernian Academy, and began to practice as a painter, residing for some years in Malpas Street. He at first confined himself to classical subjects, influenced by the work of his patron Meade and his “Coriolanus” was bought by the Royal Irish Art Union in 1841 for fifty pounds; but about 1842 he began to paint scenes of Irish country life such as “The Irish Peasant’s Grave” 1843; “The Low-backed Car” 1853; “Larry O’Toole praying for a son and heir” 1860 a subject taken from one of Carleton’s stories. His “Irish Peasant’s Grave” was purchased by the Royal Irish Art Union for seventy pounds and was won as a prize by W.P. Hyndman of Aston’s Quay. It afterwards belonged to J. Hamilton Read of Killarney Hill, Wicklow and was lithographed and published by E.J. Harty of 9 Dame Street. Tracey was a frequent exhibitor in the Royal Irish Academy. In 1860 he went to reside in Heytesbury Street, and he gradually abandoned painting and confined himself to picture cleaning and restoring. His patron G. Meade, who died in 1835, bequeathed three hundred pounds to him as well as one hundred to his sister. He died at his residence in Heytesbury Street, Dublin, in November 1873, in his 60th year. His two sons, John (died 11th December 1911) and Edward (still living [in 1913]), successfully continued their father’s business as picture cleaners at 13 Heytesbury Street.” He also had a painting in the first exhibition of the Society of Irish Artists, held in the Royal Irish Institution, College Street in April 1843.

Strickland WG (1969) A dictionary of Irish Artists. Volume II. Irish University Press, Shannon. p.451-2.) Originally published in 1913.



The Peasant’s Grave


courtesy Professor Niamh O'Sullivan                        




1 Nov 1859 Dublin Builder

Dublin Builder.jpg


3 February 1860 IT

Art Union of Ireland...subscribers...Mr. John Tracey, jun;...


Joannis Tracy & Eleonora Kinsela

Joannes Josephus Tracy b. 1836 Sp. Christophero Kinsela & Joanna Kelly. St. Nicholas RC

John Tracy & Ellen Kinsella

John Edw Tracy b. 17 December 1838 Sp. Chris Kinsella & Sarah Kinsella. St. Nicholas RC

Joannes Tracy & Mariae Kinsella

Edvardus Tracy b. 22 January 1843 Sp. Patritius & Rosa Doyle. St. Nicholas RC

Joannis Tracy & Helenae Kinsella

Georgina Tracy b. 9 ??? 1851 Sp. Guilielmus Kearney & Susanna Nichol?. St. Nicholas RC


Donohue and Tracy - 2nd July 1870, at St Kevins Harrington street, David youngest son of Patrick Donohoe, builder of this city, to Ellen, eldest daughter of John Tracy, of 85 Heytesbury street

Helena Tracey of 85 Haylerbury St (d. of Johannis Tracey & Helenae Kinsella of 85 Haylerbury St) married. David Donohoe of 3? Digges St (s. of Patritii & Helenae Drisdale – defuntes [dead]) on 2 July 1870 Wit: Christophorus Nowlan of 2 Lr Camden St & Matilda Drysdale of 84 Lr Cavandish St. Harrington St Parish  

Ellen Tracey, of full age, spinster, lives 85 Heytesbury St, (d. of John Tracy, Artist) married David Donohoe, of full age, bachelor, boot maker, lives 6 Diggs St, (s. of Patrick Joseph Donohoe, builder) 2 July 1870 RC Chapel St. Kevin Wit: Christopher Nowlan & Matilda Drysdale [Dublin South PLU]

Eleonorae Tracy & Davidis Donahoe

Maria Donohoe b. 6 May 1871 of Mt Pleasant Avenue Sp. Patricio Cadogan & Josephina Cadogan. Rathmines RC

Eleonora Donohue b. 23 March 1873 Sp. Jacobo Hutchinson & Margarita Donohue. Rathmines RC

Maria Donahoe b. 31 December 1874 of Rathgar Sp. Josepho Connolly & Anna. Rathmines RC

Hellena Tracy & Davide Donohoe

Hellena Donohoe b. 6 January 1878 of Argus View Lr Roundtown Sp. Margarita Tyrrell. St. Joseph’s RC




17 November 1873 Freeman's Journal

Tracey-Nov. 15, at 13? Heytesbury-street, John Tracey, sen., Esq. His remains will be removed for internment on to-morrow (Tuesday) morning to Glasnevin ...


1901 Census

John Tracey, 62, M, 13 Heytesbury Street, Wood Quay, Dublin, Picture Cleaner, Roman Catholic, Head of Family, Not Married, Dublin

Edward Tracey, 58, M, Heytesbury Street, Wood Quay, Dublin, Picture Cleaner, Roman Catholic, Brother, Not Married, Dublin

Georgina Tracey, 47, F, Heytesbury Street, Wood Quay, Dublin, No business, Roman Catholic, Sister, Not Married, Dublin

1911 Census

John, Tracey, 13 Heytesbury St., 72, M, Wood Quay Dublin (brother, single, picture restorer)

Edward, Tracey, Heytesbury St., 68, M, Wood Quay Dublin (brother, single, picture restorer)

Georgina, Tracey, Heytesbury St., 58, F, Wood Quay Dublin (sister, single)


Will John Tracey d.11 Dec 1911 13 Heytesbury Street Dublin, picture cleaner, to Edward Tracey, picture cleaner


Jun 21, 1919 (IT) Death

Tracey - June 12 1919, at his residence ??? Heytesbury St., Edward Tracey, aged 76 years.

Jun 12, 1920 (IT) In Memoriam

Tracey - In loving memory of Edward Tracy who died at 13 Heytesbury St, 12th June 1919.

There is a link death cannot sever,

Love and remembrance last for ever

Inserted by his fond sisters and nieces.

1919 London wills

Edward Tracey of 13 Heytesbury-street Dublin died 12 June 1919. Probate Dublin to Edward Emanuel Lennon F.R.C.P.I. Effects £1840 in England. Sealed London 14 August.


1930 London Wills

Georgina Tracey of 568 North Circular road Dublin spinster died 12 March 1930 Probate London 30 April to Edward Emanuel Lennon F.R.C.P.S.I. Effects £1044.


Apr 21, 1931 The Irish Times

Lived an Eccentric Life - Dublin Woman's £6400 - Bulk left to charities

...The plaintiff, as executor, sought to establish the last will, dated 21st January 1927, of Miss Georgina Tracey, late of 568 North Circular Road, Dublin, who died on the 12 March 1930...the testatrix was aged about 76 years and the estate valued at £6400. By her will, Miss Tracey appointed Dr. Lennon, the plaintif, exeutor, and gave him a sum of £300 for so acting. She also left him her land stock, which was worth £600, in consideration for his medical services for eight years, for which services she had never lpaid him anything...She left £1000 to the Meath Hospital to endow a bed to be called after her brothers Edward and John and herself...She left the two ladies, in whose house house she had lived for eight years, Lily McCrudden and Florance McNamee [of 568 North Circular road], £20 and £10 respectively...The family had originally consisted of John, Edward, Georgina (the testatrix) and another sister, who married and became Mrs Kennedy and who was the mother of the defendant in this action. They had lived as 13 Heytesbury street, Dublin. They were picture restoters and they seemed to have accumulated a great deal of money. For 31 years Dr. Lennon had been medical attendant of the family...John died first and Edward died in 1919 and he by his will...left £1000 to his sister Mrs Ellen Kennedy, [of 76 Kennedy Park Phibsboro] mother of the degfendant, Mrs Grey...


Newspaper and Other References


1839 The Art journal

John Tracy, also a young artist. No. 97, 'Brutus declaring his determination to revenge Lucretia,' is very creditable to his talents. He appears imbued with the spirit of the "olden school of France." Le Brun seems his model. The back ground and draperies are beautifully got in, and shew talent far beyond what we could expect from a hand hitherto unknown.

June 19, 1840 (FJ) Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA)

97. Brutus declaring his determination to revenge Lucretia (Tracy). There are few good attempts at historical subjects in the exhibition, but among the the present picture takes a principal place. The artist's conception of the tragic scene, and of the feelings of the several parties concerned in it, appears to have been very correct, and he has succeeded in giving expression to his ideas on the canvass. The variety and beauty of the grouping and drapery are peculiarly striking, and the moer mechanical, though equally difficult, portion of the work is alike worthy of commendation.

May 12, 1841 (FJ) RHA annual Exhibition

No. 20 Coriolanus by Tracy, an arduous effort, our observations on which we must postpone to our next notice.

No. 20 "The family of Coriolanus entreating for the preservation of Rome", by Mr. Tracy, a young and certainly a promising artist. The subject is a bold and arduous one and the very attempt would have been a merit in the artist, had he not even suceeded so eminently as he has done. The picture is full of figures, very much in Poussin's style of composition, and the colouring not unlike that of Paul Veronnese, although it is not laid on with sufficient finish for the subject. The artist has thus studied in no bad school. There is a good deal of spirit in many of the figures, the expression being very good in the principal ones, and unity is well preserved in the whole composition. There is evident anacronism in the architure of the back ground, but too many precedents of high authority could be pleaded in its behalf. On the whole, it is a picture which indicates considerable genius in the author.

September 3, 1841 (FJ) Fine Arts - Royal Irish Art Union

...Coriolanus, Tracy, £50...

May 23, 1842 (FJ) Fine Arts - Royal Irish Art Union

229. The Angel's Whisper, by J. Tracey, Dublin, £30 - the artist's price.

June 7, 1842 (FJ) Royal Irish Art Union

71. Feeding the Calf, by J. Tracey, Dublin, £10.

June 14, 1842 (FJ) Exhibition of the RHA

No. 229, "The angel's Whisper", by Tracy, a very superior picture in many repects.

June 5, 1843 (FJ) Fine arts - Royal Irish Art Union

'The Peasant's Grave' by J. Tracey, £70, being the artist's price.

August 30, 1843 (FJ) Royal Irish Art Union - Distribution of Prizes

The Irish Peasant's Grave, J. Tracy, £70

2 September 1843 (N) Royal Irish Art-Union

Drawing of prizes...[fourth] 'The Irish Peasant's Grave' by J. Tracy, 70l. W.P. Hyndman, 9 Aston's-quay

June 12, 1844 (FJ) RHA

In "Which is the purtiest?" Tracy has very successfully given an heathen story in an Irish dress. A lair of country little mountain woman lasses have selected as umpire between them a rustic Paris, and are submitting their plump little feet to his inspection, that he may decide "which is the purtiest." It is very Irish and very natural.

July 22, 1844 (FJ)

Among the larger ones we have No.4, "The Old Romance" by Tracy;

December 3, 1844 (FJ) The Art Union Exhibition

"Which is the purtiest?" by Tracy for £50

December 11, 1844 (FJ) The Art Union Exhibition

"Which is the purtiest?" by Tracy for £50 - Myles Sherlock, jun., Cork

21 December 1844 (N) Royal Dublin Society

...Mr. J. Tracy, whose works show great originality and fine feeling; I would particularly instance his "Peasant's Grave" of last year...

May 15, 1845 (FJ) Exhibition of the Society of Irish Artists

Tracy, whose treatment of Irish subjects is so homely and natural, has sent two charming pictures Nos. 5 and 8. In the former he has depicted a number of Irish peasants caught by a tempest, and kneeling around a rudely sculptured cross in a forest, while the latter is named "A Scene of By-gone Days". We fear, however, that the annals of our country furnish too many recent instances of the scene represented to designate it as one of by-gone days. At the door of a peasant's cottage are grouped some policemen, and a hard-featured, relentless-looking man, into whose hands the peasant is giving the key of his humble home, while the weaping wife, with the terrified children, proceed before. This is a delightfully finished piece both in grouping and colouring.

June 17, 1845 (FJ) Royal Irish Art Union

From the Society of Irish Artists, College street...8 A Scene of By-gone Days, by J. Tracey (Dublin) £40...

December 11, 1845 (BL) The Royal Irish Art Union - Distribution of Prizes

303 T M Gresham, Raheny; A Scene of By-Gone Days; J Tracy, artist - £40

13 December 1845 (N) The Royal Irish Art Union - Distribution of Prizes

...303. T.M. Gresham, Raheny; A Scene of By-gone Days; J. Tracy, artist - 40l...

1853 “370. Christ driving the Devils out of the possessed Men. John Tracy”

Sproule, John (1854) The Irish Industrial Exhibition of 1853, p.41, 461. J. McGlashan, Dublin.

October 24, 1853, December 12, 1853 and January 17, 1854 (FJ) The New Irish Art Union

...No. 234 or 334 "Titon of Athens" by John Tracey, Dublin £80 (810) Jones, Co, Stephen's Green...

January 27, 1859 (FJ) Cromo-Lithography

...The Peasant's Grave...The original was painted by Mr. John Tracy, a Dublin artist of much merit, and was purchased by the late Irish Art Union, and is now the property of Mr. JH Read of Bray. The Lithographic impressions are to be laid before the Art Convernazione of the Royal Dublin Society to-morrow evening.

January 29, 1859 (FJ) Photographic Society

Two exquisitely finished crom-lithographs of Tracy's fine picture of "the peasant's grave" were exhibited by Mr. Harty of Dame street, and proofs from the seventeen stones required to produce the picture in the same colours, as the original...

29 January 1859 (N) Chromo-Lithography

We have been favoured with a specimen of the very first effort ever made in Ireland in the new and beautiful style of art...It is a colourful lithograph of Mr. Tracy's exquisite picture, "The Peasant's Grave" by Mr. Harty of Dame-street...

January 29, 1859 (FJ) Photographic Society

Two exquisitely finished crom-lithographs of Tracy's fine picture of "the peasant's grave" were exhibited by Mr. Harty of Dame street, and proofs from the seventeen stones required to produce the picture in the same colours, as the original...

14 May 1859 (N) The City.

"The Peasant's Grave" Mr. Harty's beautiful [colour] chromo-lithograph of the "The Peasant's Grave", after the original painting by J. Tracey, Esq., of this city, is now published...

July 24, 1860 (FJ) RHA

One of these pictures is No.232 "Larry O'Toole and his wife praying for a son and heir to the half acre" by Mr. J. Tracy...

8 May 1861 (IT) Art Union of Ireland

Prizeholders of one guinea…John Tracey, Heytesbury Street…

2 June 1871 (FJ)

"Mrs. Floyd refusing admittance to Mary Warner" by John Tracy...[painting]

18 January 1872 (FJ)

The Late rev Dr. O'Hanlon. To sell by Auction..."Christ Casting Out Devils" by Tracey;...

29 November 1873 (N) Dublin Gossip

Amongst those past boyhood there are few interested in Irish art who do not recall with a pleasant sadness "The Peasant's Grave" by John Tracy, whose death swells the obituary of the past week. That most truthful and touching picture was painted at a time when some of his admirers were wont to say the artist's genius had waned, but the facile grace with which a most difficult subject was set forth restored for a while a reputation founded on works which, at one time, divided admiration with those of the worthies of art. Amongst these, "The Eviction", "The Roadside Disaster", "Timon" and "The Pattern", were, perhaps, the most notable, and the acquirement for the National Gallery of a couple of these really national Chef d'oeuvres will be looked forward to by many outside those who are sad to-day at the loss of a most kind-hearted genial man, and very true artist.

October 1876

Some time ago a picture by the late John Tracy was exhibited in the Royal Hibernian Academy Exhibition of three Irish peasant girls entitled "Which is the purtiest".

In July 1880, a fine painting of “The Crucifixation”, size 54 x 38 unframed, painted for the owner by the late Mr. Tracey, was sent for auction.

20 February 1884 Freeman's Journal

... Messrs Tracey for the renovation of valuable pictures in the Mansion House was adopted, and orders were issued for the execution of the work under the...

November 1887 Auction of Fine Arts property of Mr. Charles Brien, 51 South Richmond street, Dublin ..."The Eviction", "Timen and Alcibiades" and "Virginius and Virginia" by John Tracey (three works illustrative of the versatile and comprehensive genius of this talented Irish artist)...


In the 19th century, in major exhibitions of art and industry in Ireland, very few Irish historical pictures appeared in the art sections. The exception was the Irish exhibition at South Kensington in 1888, which was at a time when the Land League agitation had already proved to be successful as a mass rural movement. Five paintings related to either evictions or boycotts. This exhibition demonstrated the close connection between the production of historical paintings and the emotion generated by contemporary political movements. At the Irish Exhibition at South Kensington the five 'land war' paintings were, 'A Boycotted House' by Georgina Borrer; 'Boycotted' by M.D. Webb-Robinson; 'Notice to Quit' by James Brenan (Headmaster of the Cork School of Art); 'An Impending Eviction' by R. Staunton Cahill; 'The Eviction' by J. Tracey.

Ref: John Turpin. Irish History Painting. The GPA Irish Arts Review Yearbook, (1989/1990), pp. 233-247


1840-1850 Dublin Directory

John Tr(e)ac(e)y, picture restorer & painter, 6 Malpas St

1851 Census

Jno Tr(e)acy, 6 Malpas St, Dublin City

1862 Thom’s Dublin Street Directory

John Tracey, picture cleaner, (15l.) 85 Bell-villa. (Heytesbury-street)

William Tracey, Court of Chancery, (15l). 87 Bell-villa. (Heytesbury-street.)


July 15th, 1865. List of electors, City of Dublin.

John Tracey, 85 Heytesbury street, Bell's villa .. G P

William Tracy, 87 Heytesbury street .. V G



85 Heytesbury-street Parish of Saint Peter Dublin, John Treacy, £26, 0a/0r/7p, tenant from year to year




Last update: 27 March 2021