Courtesy of the Roycroft Arts Museum
Jerome Connor (Irish, ca. 1875-1943)
(Also Known as: Patrick Jeremias Connor, Jerome Conner, Jerome Stanley Connor, J. Stanley Connor, and "St. Jerome" Connor)
Born: Annascaul, County Kerry, Ireland
Jerome Stanley Connor was a self-taught artist who was highly regarded in the United States where most of his public works can be seen. He used the human figure to give expression to emotions, values and ideals. Many of the commissions he received were for civic memorials and secular figures which he cast in bronze, a pronounced departure from the Irish tradition of stone carved, church sponsored works.
The details of Connor's life are sketchy. He is thought to have been born October 12, 1875 in a small mountainside farm in Coumduff, Ireland, the sixth and youngest child of Patrick and Margaret Connor. He began work as a sign painter and a stonecutter to help support his family until they uprooted and moved to the United States, settling in Holyoke, Massachusetts in the early 1890's. Conner then trained as an apprentice in the American stone trade, working for a time for a monument company in Springfield, Massachusetts.
After his father died, Connor left Massachusetts for New York where he found work as a sign painter, a stonecutter, and later as a machinist and bronze founder. It is also reported that for a time he earned money as a prize-fighter. It is believed he may have assisted in the manufacture of bronzes such as the Civil War monument in Town Green in South Hadley, Massachusetts erected in 1896 and the Court of Neptune fountain at the Library of Congress in Washington D.C., completed in 1898.
Elbert Hubbard Memorial, East Aurora, New York
From An American Original
Through a mutual friend, Connor learned of Elbert Hubbard and the Roycroft arts community that he founded in East Aurora, New York. In 1899, Connor joined the Roycroft community where he initially assisted with construction of the buildings, worked as a blacksmith, and helped to establish the pottery shop. Eventually, he was recognized as Roycroft's sculptor-in-residence.
One of the most ambitious works he created was The Marriage of Art and Industry. Connor is reported to have dedicated the better part of a year on the monument's construction. With new ideas came additions, improvements, and increased weight. Connor worked on the upper floor of an old barn, and one evening, as Roycrofters and visitors relaxed on the peristyle of the Roycroft Inn, a thunderous crash was heard from Connor's studio. The beams under the second floor had given way, and Connor's Marriage fell to pieces. Fortunately, no one was hurt.
In 1902, Connor left Roycroft to head up Gustave Stickley's metal work department in Syracuse, New York. In 1910, he established his own studio in Washington, D.C. From 1902 until his death, Connor produced scores of designs ranging from small portrait heads to relief panels to large civic commissions realized in bronze.
Connor moved back to Ireland in 1925, and the following year he was contacted by Roycroft and asked to design and cast a statue of Elbert Hubbard who, with his wife Alice, had died in the sinking of the RMS Lusitania. It was unveiled in 1930 and today it stands on the lawn of East Aurora's Middle School across the street from the Roycroft Chapel building.
While working on the Hubbard statue, Connor received a commission to create a memorial for all the Lusitania victims. It was to be erected in Queenstown, County Cork where many of the victims were buried. The project was initiated by the New York Memorial Committee, headed by William H. Vanderbilt whose father Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt, like Elbert and Alice Hubbard, perished on the Lusitania, but on August 20, 1943, Connor was found ill in his apartment and died of heart failure the following day. Completion of the Lusitania memorial based on Connor's design fell to another Irish artist.