immigration contributed to Argentine development. It is
well known that its members from all social classes helped
in the economic progress of this new country through their
role in agricultural and commercial undertakings. But
references to their part in the cultural field are usually
limited to initiatives in school education. In this context,
it is important to point out also other aspects, like
the place of Henry Sheridan (1833-1860) in the history
of local fine arts.
Sheridan was an artist who died when he was still very
young; he had a rich personal story and a promising career.
The son of a prosperous Irish immigrant, he lived in England
since he was a child, and it was in that country that
he received his artistic education. His return to the
River Plate was due to legal and economic problems, but
thanks to this he became an important reference in the
history of fine arts in Argentina.(2)
The aim of this article is to contribute to the well-deserved
studies on his life and artistic work, which have not
always been analysed in depth, perhaps because of his
short life and his limited production.
Sheridan (3) was born
on 13 September 1833 in the house his family had in Ranchos,
in the province of Buenos Aires. Two months later, on
12 November, he was baptised in St Andrew's Presbyterian
City Church, together with his sister Elizabeth, four
Landscape - Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Neuquén
father, Peter Sheridan, was born in Dublin in 1793. After
his arrival in Buenos Aires in 1817, he worked as a textile
merchant in partnership with his brother James (1787?-1823).
In 1820 he went to England to marry Mary Butterworth.
Although he had planned to run his part of the business
from there, he returned in 1823, after his brother’s death.
least four sons and daughters were born and baptised in
Buenos Aires: Mary (1826), Alfred (1827-1834), Elizabeth
(1829) and Henry (4).
Soon after his return, in 1826, Peter and his partners,
John Harratt and Thomas Whitfield, bought the estancia
that was later called Los galpones, in Ranchos.
Sheridan was very fortunate in a subsequent division of
lands. With another estate he bought later on, the new
estancia came to be known as Los sajones. Apart
from his successful cattle-raising undertaking and ground-breaking
innovations in sheep-rearing, Peter Sheridan was an active
member in the British community in Buenos Aires.
1835, Mary and four sons and daughters moved to Liverpool
so that the children could be educated in England. However,
Mary died soon after their arrival, and the children were
left with a Mrs Postlethwaite and a Mrs Cartwright (5).
1838, Peter brought his nephews, James Peter (1808?-1860)
and Hugh Thomas (1810?-1866), from Britain to help him
to run his estates. When Peter died on 6 (or on 8) January
1844, the British consulate appointed the two brothers guardians of the property of the two heirs, Elizabeth and
Henry, who still lived in England; Hugh resigned in 1847.
is very likely that Henry had inherited his father’s interest
in culture. His select library in Los sajones,
which his brother James might have started, was certainly
Also, it was said (although it is not certain) that Peter
was related to the Irish playwright and Whig politician,
Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751-1816). In this family
context (and although there is no evidence that his father
had seen Henry again after his departure, when he was
two years old), Peter must have seen to it that his son
received a good education.
is not surprising, then, that this young man ended up
with artistic inclinations. It is possible that, after
his father’s death, he did not feel very interested in
coming back to a distant land, of which he did not keep
any memories, and even less to work in the camp,
of which he had no experience. Likely, the money his cousin
regularly sent was enough for him and Elizabeth to live
in comfort, as well as enabling him to make some trips
to the continent.
the 1851 census, a seventeen-year old male called ‘H.
Sheridan’ is listed as living as a ‘pupil’ in the household
of Thomas Banner, a curate in Lancashire (7).
It seems that before coming back to the River Plate he
must have taken his first steps in the local art circles:
in 1857, while he lived in Whitehaven, in Cumberland,
he exhibited a painting called The Fall of the Aar,
at the Handek at the Royal Academy of Arts. The title
also indicates that he might have travelled on the continent
when he was young.
(Museo Histórico Nacional, Buenos Aires, inv.
that year, 1857, Henry and Elizabeth decided to return
to the River Plate. Their cousin James, manager at Los
sajones, had convinced them that they had to sell
the estancia due to financial problems. Strangely,
the buyer turned out to be Richard B. Hughes, brother-in-law
of James, who in turn bought it in 1855.
cousins decided to return to Argentina to fight for their
inheritance. Henry and his sister Elizabeth arrived in
Buenos Aires on the steam packet Camilla on 20
legal action against their cousin only ended in 1864,
after the death of James and Henry. However, the latter’s
return to the River Plate for economic reasons had a significant
effect on his artistic career.
it is not known how he and his sister supported themselves,
it is possible that Henry continued painting, to while
away his time and to try to earn some income. In any case,
he could not have been very hopeful.
Buenos Aires artistic scene
is it easy to earn a living from art, and Buenos Aires
in the middle of the nineteenth century was no exception
to this rule. After almost half a century of independence,
Argentina was still beset by internal conflicts and divisions.
Buenos Aires, in control of customs revenues, was independent
from the Argentine Confederation. National union would
only be achieved after the Battle of Cepeda (1859) and,
especially, after the Battle of Pavón (1861).
in spite of this political instability, there was an increasing
number of collectors who invested money in buying paintings
or sculptures. For this reason, it is natural that there
were more artists: ‘We have here a collection of good
and bad artists enough to provide to the needs of the
cities of London and Paris together’ (8).
Landscape with hills - Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Neuquén
the abundance of artists, there was little possibility
of a good artistic education or even a deeply rooted local
tradition. Between the Battle of Caseros (1852) and Sheridan’s
arrival (1857), there is evidence only of drawing lessons
at the university; lessons given by a foreign painter
passing through Buenos Aires, like Monvoisin; or architecture-orientated
lessons. The authorities requested a report from the vice-chancellor
of the university on the creation of an artistic education
academy, but it never materialised. In those years, a
national exhibition was also planned, for which a committee
was even appointed; but the political situation led to
the project being indefinitely postponed.
this context, Sheridan is a special case, because he was
one of the first to arrive in Buenos Aires with a European
artistic education. Prilidiano Pueyrredón (1823-1870)
had studied in Paris and Rio de Janeiro; but that was
unusual among the River Plate artists. The first students
who were able to study art in Europe (with a grant awarded
by the Argentine government) were Bernabé Demaría, Martín
L. Boneo (1857-1863), Claudio Lastra (1858-1866) and Mariano
Agrelo (1858), all of them after Sheridan’s arrival, which,
for this reason, was a novelty in the local arts scene.
must be borne in mind, on the other hand, that the short
painting tradition in Argentina was centred on portraits
and on religious and historic scenes (the latter, especially
after the Battle of Pavón). The painting of local customs
and manners was on a second level, more-or-less important,
but, in general, dealt with by foreign painters with a
special perception for exoticism (9).
Landscapes, Sheridan’s forte, were still an unusual subject
matter, perhaps because of the monotonous environment
of the pampas.
was no museum of fine arts (it opened in 1895), and the
art galleries were, in fact, stores of varied products
where paintings were offered for sale. The best known
one was that of the Fusoni brothers, established by Fernando
(1821-1892) and his brothers in 1855, located on Cangallo
Street. Customers could buy there, among other things,
naval products and ironmongery, geodesy instruments and
chemical products, mirrors and wallpaper. In one of the
rooms, the Fusonis displayed some items of local art.
Pueyrredón, Pallière, Manzoni, Blanes, Boneo and Montero
showed their work there. Almost every week the artists
brought new paintings to Fusoni’s.
artistic activity in Buenos Aires
Sheridan also exhibited his works at Fusoni’s. In the
newspapers, there is news of an oil-painting in June 1858,
a picture in September, a landscape in November, another
five in December, and an indeterminate number of ‘new
pictures’ in March of the following year. The newspaper
reports usually refer to European landscapes; this might
imply that Sheridan brought part of his output from Europe,
or at least some sketches with which to carry on with
was in those months that Sheridan met Jean León Pallière
(1823-1887). Ten years older than the artist, Pallière
had been born in Rio de Janeiro and had studied in France.
He visited Buenos Aires in 1848, but settled in the city
only in 1855, after travelling around Italy, France, Spain
and Morocco. Between March and October 1858, he visited
Chile and Bolivia, passing through Cuyo and central and
northwest Argentina. After his return, he showed the fruits
of his journey, some exhibited in the window of his house,
and the rest he took it to Fusoni’s after February 1859.
seems that the two artists got on well. Perhaps Pallière’s
age and experience had some influence on the young artist.
Sheridan, however, was also in an almost unknown element;
he was, in fact, almost a foreigner, and probably did
not speak the local language fluently. Possibly, Pallière
also felt a foreigner.
any case, they agreed to organise a joint exhibition in
June, apparently the first one of its kind in Buenos Aires.
Pallière and Sheridan showed, in all, sixty oil-paintings
and watercolours, a huge number for what was usual in
those times, and which also speaks about their productiveness.
Pallière and Sheridan let the public know that they have
opened an exhibition of oil-paintings and watercolours,
San Martín Street, 126, next door to the Roma Hotel.
every day from 10 a. m. to 4 p. m.
Sundays from 1 to 4 p. m.
10 pesos’ (10).
exhibition was well received by the public, and the newspapers
a modest room on San Martín street, next door to the Roma
Hotel, sixty pictures by the two artists can be seen,
paying ten pesos at the entrance. Among these sixty pictures,
there are landscapes representing the sunset in the Alps,
Lake Lamond [sic] in Scotland, pictures of customs and
costumes, like the porteños in Santo Domingo,
the gaucho in his ranch, and portraits which
similarity with people of our society excuses us from
mentioning their names.
Two men on horseback with a herd of three mules in a valley
(Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes - Buenos Aires)
‘The sunset in the Alps, by Sheridan, is full of that
deep and melancholic poetry exuding from all this young
man’s output. For us who know this nature he suffers from,
and that suffering spirit, fighting with the former and
with other troubles of this world, his painting is not
but the portrait of his thought, when, tired out by present-day
suffering, he allows his soul to wander in the world he
creates for himself, shaping nature according to his will
those who live immersed in the material things of life,
whose rushing has not completely destroyed the taste for
art, a visit to the room on San Martín street is a sweet,
restful moment, when another air can be breathed, when
other impressions can be enjoyed and one can have a good
time for half an hour’ (11).
The success of the exhibition motivated Sheridan to offer
painting and drawing lessons:
the aim of stimulating the taste for the Fine Arts in
Buenos Aires, Mr Enrique [sic] Sheridan intends to establish
a school of painting, if he can bring together a big enough
number of amateurs, devoting one day to the fair sex.
Lessons of oil-painting, watercolour and all kind of pencil
drawing will be given in the said school.
and gentlemen willing to favour this undertaking may speak
to Mr Sheridan, who shall give them details, and shall
present the inscription list at the exhibition hall, San
Martín street, 126’ (12).
following year, after his death, in a note in La Tribuna,
a ‘friend and disciple’, commented indirectly on the classes
the young artist gave: ‘Enrique [sic] Sheridan has been
for us more than a teacher; he has been the unselfish,
sincere friend who has given to our soul some of the love
for art that animated his; many times we have heard his
intimate confidences about his artistic ambition and have
received from him treasures of knowledge that we feel
unable to exploit’ (13).
next news on the artist was in August of the following
year. It is possible that during that long period of silence
Sheridan had been travelling.
trip to Montevideo with Pallière is very likely. We know
about several of Pallière’s trips around South America,
and it would not be strange that his young colleague had
gone with him. In the Museo Histórico Municipal of the
Cabildo of Montevideo there is an oil-painting,
A View of Montevideo from Vilardebó, attributed
to both artists (14).
to joint works by both artists are certainly frequent.
Authors usually mention that Sheridan was Pallière’s disciple,
but they also mention that in the paintings made in collaboration,
they used to divide up the work: Pallière did the figures
and Sheridan the landscape, his forte. One example would
be the big oil-painting Line of Carts in the Pampa,
that might have been exhibited in June, which would be
the model for the homonymous lithograph.
days before Sheridan’s death, a reporter from El Nacional
said that, after a long time during which his works had
not been seen, a lithograph was being shown, a ‘small,
two-colour drawing, representing the English races, that
can be seen in the window of Ure and Vignal, which is
his first work of this type. Very good composition; the
groups skilfully apart from one another, in spite of the
confusing character the scene has in itself; easy lines;
the horses well drawn; its figures full of movement; all
this well deserves to attract attention’ (15).
the twentieth century, Schiaffino commented: ‘Its natural
composition, the sensation of a crowd the artist has achieved,
and the truth and accuracy of the entertainment, they
all reveal a master in that young artist who was only
twenty-five years old [sic], as this drawing was made
in the last year of his very short existence’ (Schiaffino
1933: p. 201) (16).
from Races in Belgrano, there is another lithograph
by Sheridan: View of Buenos Aires from the South.
The statement that a few days before he died the Races
was ‘his first work of this type’ makes it hard to say
whether the View was about to be printed, or
if it already existed but was not known.
View of Buenos Aires from the South
(Complejo Museográfico Provincial "Enrique Udaondo" of Luján, accountable to the Instituto Cultural de la Provincia de Buenos Aires)
is the rural city, described by Mármol in Amalia,
so more picturesque that the present one! Only ten years
before, under the tyranny, those ravines and the solitary
coast, where the darkness of the night used to help the
escape of a unitary who escaped to Montevideo, were stained
with blood by the Mazorca lying in wait. In the distance,
the towers and domes of Santo Domingo and San Francisco’
(Schiaffino 1933: p. 200) (17).
caught him immersed in all this intense activity. He died
as a result of a bleeding ulcer, probably on 27 August
1860. Two days later, on 29 August, Rev. John Chubb Ford
officiated at his burial at the Victoria Cemetery. Years
later his remains were transferred to the British Cemetery
had left for the coast and the Northeast in May, and was
back by August. He was probably in Buenos Aires when his
colleague died. He returned to France in 1866; he died
there in 1887.
after Henry’s death, on 1 December, his cousin James died
at Los sajones. Two years later, on 2 August
1862, Elizabeth married William Whateley Welchman, an
Englishman from Warwickshire, at St John’s Anglican Church,
Buenos Aires. After his death, much of Henry Sheridan's
work was sold and taken abroad, and disappeared without
quality of Sheridan’s work has always been acknowledged.
‘His truncated work shows he was estimable. He had everything:
a sense of form and colour, and a wide view and good taste
in the arrangement of the picture’ (Pagano 1937: p. 284)
spite of his small surviving output, he is usually mentioned
as one of the references for the first steps of what could
be considered as an Argentine artistic school. Apart from
some influence of the few classes he might have given,
he was one of those who paved the way for other young
artists who would return from Europe with artistic knowledge
that would enable Argentine fine arts to commence a steady
is, perhaps, difficult to consider Sheridan an Argentine
painter: although he was born in the province of Buenos
Aires, he lived abroad from when he was two until he was
twenty-four and died less than three years after his return.
Nevertheless, in spite of the fact that he received his
education in England, he cannot be classified as a European
or English painter passing through South America:
although some of his works are inspired by places in Europe,
most of them draw on the American landscape he knew. Henry
Sheridan is, then, an example of the variety of facets
of the Irish immigrants and their descendants in Argentina.
With Irish family roots, his life had a strong British
influence in social, cultural and economic aspects, which,
in turn, resulted in his contribution to the land where
he developed his brilliant, though brief, artistic career.
back to Baudelaire’s statement that art is about memory,
continuation and losses, which poetry is more likely to
last? Whose transfiguration of history, whose translation
of history will answer the postmodern crises of representation?
Maybe the answer is still to be found.
Mariano Galazzi is a historian and translator. He published the translation and notes of Marion Mulhall’s Los Irlandeses en Sudamérica (Buenos Aires: Elaleph.com,
2009). He is thankful to the following persons and institutions
for their help in the research on Henry Sheridan’s life
and work: Robert Baxter (Cumbria Record Office and Local
Studies Library), Cecilia Cavanagh (Pabellón de las Bellas
Artes, Universidad Católica Argentina, Buenos Aires),
Raul Chagas (Museo Histórico Municipal, Montevideo), Elizabeth
King (Royal Academy Library), Eleonora Waldmann (Museo
Nacional de Bellas Artes, Buenos Aires), and Paula Zingoni
(Museo Histórico Nacional, Buenos Aires).
“FIne arts” are those visual arts that involve the use
of materials that can be moulded or modified in some way,
such as clay, paint and plaster.
In the sources and bibliography, his name appears either
as Henry, Enrique or Henrique.
A fifth son is sometimes mentioned, but I have found no
specific information about him. There is a Sheridan child
in the register of the Socorro Protestant cemetery for
the year 1832.
Apart from Elizabeth, we have found no further references
to the other siblings of Henry’s that had travelled with
him; it is possible that they died soon after their mother.
As he left Argentina when he was two years old, it is
very unlikely that Henry used these books. Nevertheless,
their existence reflects the cultural environment of his
The birthplace is given as ‘Buenos Aires, South America,
British subject’ (10 107/2260, folio 490, page 20). The
census took place on 30 March 1851.
‘Hay aquí una reunión de artistas malos y buenos capaz
de proveer a las necesidades de la ciudad de Londres y
París reunidas’. Letter of Juan Manuel Blanes to Mauricio
Blanes, 21 November 1857, AGN (Montevideo), Mauricio Blanes
archive. Quoted in Amigo, Roberto, ‘Prilidiano Pueyrredón
y la formación de una cultura visual en Buenos Aires’,
in Luna, Félix, et al., Prilidiano Pueyrredón.
Buenos Aires, Banco Velox, 1999, p. 49.
Pictures like El rodeo or Un alto en el camino, by Pueyrredón,
were painted in 1861, one year after Sheridan’s death.
‘Los Sres. Pallière y Sheridan hacen saber al público
que han abierto una exposición de pinturas al óleo y acuarelas,
calle San Martín núm. 126 al lado del Hotel de Roma.
Abierta todos los días desde las 10 de la mañana hasta las 4 de la tarde.
Los domingos desde la 1 hasta las 4 de la tarde.
10 pesos’ (‘Exposición de pinturas’, in El Nacional,
7 June 1859; it appears again several times during the
‘En un modesto salón de la calle San Martín, al lado del
Hotel de Roma, se pueden visitar sesenta cuadros de los
dos autores nombrados, pagando diez pesos a la entrada.
Entre esos sesenta cuadros, se encuentran paisajes representando
la caída del sol en los Alpes, el Lago de Lamond en Escocia,
cuadros de costumbres y trajes, como los porteños en Santo
Domingo, el gaucho en el rancho, y retratos cuya semejanza
con personas de nuestra sociedad, nos excusa pronunciar
La caída del Sol en los Alpes, obra de Sheridan está impregnada de aquella profunda y melancólica poesía que respiran todas las producciones de este joven. Para nosotros que conocemos esa naturaleza que padece, y ese espíritu que sufre, luchando con aquella y con otros sinsabores de este mundo, su cuadro no es sino el retrato de su pensamiento, cuando fatigado del sufrimiento actual, deja que su alma vague en el mundo que él se crea, formando a su gusto la naturaleza en que querría vivir (...).
los que viven envueltos en las cosas materiales de la
vida, cuyo trote no ha destruido del todo el gusto por
el arte, una visita al salón de la calle San Martín, es
un dulce momento, un reposo donde se respira otro aire,
donde se gozan otras impresiones y donde se pasa bien,
una media hora’ (‘Exposición de pinturas. Sheridan y Pallière’,
in La Tribuna, 11 June 1859, p. 3).
‘Con el objeto de estimular el gusto por las Bellas Artes
en Buenos Aires, D. Enrique Sheridan se propone establecer
una academia de pintura, si consigue reunir un número
bastante de aficionados, destinando un día de la semana
para el bello sexo. En dicha academia se darán lecciones
de pintura al óleo, acuarela y todo género de dibujo a
caballeros y señoras que deseen favorecer esta empresa
pueden dirigirse al Sr. Sheridan, quien dará los pormenores,
y presentará la lista de inscripción en la sala de la
exposición, calle San Martín número 126’ (‘Academia de
Bellas Artes’, in El Nacional, 28 June 1859;
it appears again several times in the following days).
‘Enrique Sheridan ha sido para nosotros algo más que un
maestro; ha sido el amigo desinteresado, sincero que ha
dado a nuestra alma, algo del amor al arte que animaba
la suya, haciéndonos asistir muchas veces a las confidencias
íntimas de su ambición artística y regalándonos tesoros
de conocimientos que nos sentimos débiles para explotar’
(Gazano, Antonio, ‘Enrique Sheridan’, in La Tribuna,
29 August 1860, p. 3).
This work offers striking coincidences with two other
paintings: View of Montevideo, by Sheridan, and Landscape
of Montevideo, by Pallière, private collection and Colección
Fortabat, respectively, both in Buenos Aires.
‘...pequeño dibujo a dos colores, representando las carreras
inglesas que se ve caído tras de los vidrios de Ure y
Vignal, es su primera obra en este género. Su composición
bien entendida, sus grupos hábilmente separados unos de
otros, a pesar del carácter confuso que la escena tiene
en sí misma, sus líneas fáciles, sus caballos bien dibujados,
sus figuras llenas de movimiento, todo esto merece muy
bien llamar la atención’ (‘Sheridan’, in El Nacional,
26 August 1860). The Race Circus (Circo de las Carreras)
in Belgrano had opened in 1857; it was located in a plot
of land delimited nowadays by the following streets: La
Pampa, Cramer, Mendoza and Melián. It had an oval track
1,500 metres long that was used for English-style races.
‘La naturalidad de la composición, la sensación de muchedumbre
obtenida por el artista, la verdad y la precisión del
espectáculo, revelan un maestro en aquel joven artista
que apenas tenía veinticinco [sic] años, dado que este
dibujo haya sido ejecutado en el último de su cortísima
‘Es la ciudad campestre, descrita por Mármol en Amalia,
¡cuánto más pintoresca que la actual! Apenas diez años
antes, bajo la tiranía, esas barrancas y la costa solitaria,
donde la lobreguez de la noche solía amparar la fuga de
algún unitario, que embarcaba para Montevideo, eran ensangrentadas
por la Mazorca en acecho. En lontananza, las torres y
cúpula de Santo Domingo y de San Francisco’.
‘Su obra trunca nos lo muestra como un valor. Todo lo
poseía: sentido de la forma, sensibilidad cromática, visión
amplia del cuadro, gusto en el modo compositivo’.
Academia Nacional de Bellas Artes, Historia general
del arte en la Argentina. (Buenos Aires: editor’s
edition, 1984). Vol. III.
Coghlan, Eduardo A., Los irlandeses en la Argentina:
Su actuación y descendencia (Buenos Aires: author’s
El Nacional (issues from the years 1859-1860).
Hanon, Maxine, Diccionario de británicos en Buenos
Aires (Buenos Aires: author’s edition, 2005).
Howat, Jeremy, British Settlers in Argentina—studies
in 19th and 20th century emigration website (http://www.argbrit.org).
La Tribuna (issues from the years 1858-1860).
Mulhall, Michael G., The English in South America
(Buenos Aires: Standard, 1878).
Pagano, José León, El arte de los argentinos
(Buenos Aires: author’s edition, 1937). Vol. I.
Schiaffino, Eduardo, La pintura y la escultura en
Argentina (Buenos Aires: author’s edition, 1933).