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Richard Thomas Moynan, R.H.A. (1856-1906)
Richard Moynan was born on 27 April 1856 at 1 Eldon Terrace, off the South Circular Road, Dublin. He was fourth of eight children; three sons and five daughters, born to Richard Moynan, Sr., and his wife Harriet Nobel. The painter's father held a managerial position with the fabric importers Ferrier, Pollock and Company, while his mother was the daughter of Arthur Nobel, a Church of Ireland clergyman. The younger Moynan initially studied medicine but, shortly before his final examinations, he changed tack and opted instead for a career in the arts, commencing his training at the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art in the autumn of 1879.
Moynan achieved early success within the art school system. More mature than his fellow students in terms of age and education, he won prizes in both the Taylor and Cowper competitions. In 1882 he moved on to the Royal Hibernian Academy, where he won both silver and bronze medals for his work, crowning these achievements the following year with the Albert Scholarship for the best picture shown in the Royal Hibernian Academy by a student. This painting, The Last of the 24th at Isandula (RHA, 1883), portrayed an episode in the Zulu wars, providing an early indication of the artist's unionist outlook, a characteristic evident throughout his career.
Following the example of fellow Irish painters Walter Osborne, Nathaniel Hill, and Joseph Malachy Kavanagh, Moynan enrolled in Académie Royale des Beaux Arts in Antwerp in October 1883. His Dublin colleagues Roderic O'Conor and Henry Allen registered for the same course. The intensity of his studies was such that, for the first time in four years, he did not contribute to the Royal Hibernian Academy exhibition. Moynan instead focused on preparing for the most important competition in the Académie, the annual concours. This approach yielded the desired results, and he gained the highest accolade, attaining first place in painting from the living model. He was the first Irishman to achieve such an award. This prestigious prize paid immediate dividends, ranking him among the élite. It allowed him the privilege of special tuition from Professor of Painting Karl Verlat (1824-90), as well as extra studio space, facilitating the painting of the human figure in life scale. This success influenced his decision to remain in Antwerp for a further year. But affairs of the heart also had to be settled, and he returned to Ireland immediately after the concours and married his cousin, Suzanna Mary Moynan, in her home in Thurles on 9 April 1884.