Cost of Revolution: The Life and Death of an Irish Soldier

Cost of Revolution: The Life and Death of an Irish Soldier

September 28, 2019 through February 17, 2020
Free with Museum Admission

What can a life tell us about an era? Follow the untold story of Richard St. George, an Irish soldier and artist, whose personal trauma and untimely death provide a window into the entangled histories of the American Revolution and the ensuing bloody Irish Revolution of 1798. St. George's tragic journey will be brought to life through rare portraits and historical artifacts – reunited for the first time – from Ireland, England, Australia, and the United States. St. George’s own artwork, including sketches and cartoons, and also paintings he commissioned after surviving a severe head wound at the Battle of Germantown, reveal the physical and emotional toll of war and revolution. The exhibition will assemble one of the largest collections of objects from Ireland’s 18th-century revolutionary history and war for independence ever displayed in Philadelphia.

Portraits of Richard St. George - Left by Thomas Gainsborough c. 1776, Right by Hugh Douglas Hamilton c. 1795
Portraits of Richard St. George - Left by Thomas Gainsborough c. 1776, Right by Hugh Douglas Hamilton c. 1795

About the Portraits

Thomas Gainsborough’s 1776 oil painting of a teenaged St. George depicts him just before he shipped out for New York to fight against the growing American Revolution. The portrait is on loan to the Museum from Australia’s National Gallery of Victoria (Melbourne).

Hugh Douglas Hamilton’s 1795 oil painting shows a grief-stricken St. George mourning at his wife’s tomb. Hamilton painted this portrait as a movement for Irish independence, which St. George opposed, was on the rise. The portrait is on loan to the Museum from National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin.

Portraits Loaned By
National Gallery of Ireland
National Gallery of Victoria (Melbourne)

About Richard Mansergh St. George

Born into the Anglo-Irish aristocracy, Richard Mansergh St. George’s childhood coincided with Great Britain’s stunning victory over France and Spain in the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763) and the vast expansion of the British Empire across the globe. St. George fought to defend the empire from American Revolutionaries in 1776 and 1777, but was severely wounded at the Battle of Germantown, just outside of Philadelphia.

He returned to Ireland because of his wound and found his native country roiled by the effects of the American Revolution. As the revolutionary spirit swept from America to France in the 1780s and 1790s, many in Ireland began dreaming of independence and republican government for their country. In 1798, Irish Revolutionaries killed St. George because he rejected Irish independence.

St. George’s tumultuous life and experiences are exceptionally well documented through surviving artwork (including some of his personal sketches), poetry, manuscripts, and historical artifacts. These materials, now scattered across three continents, will be reunited in Cost of Revolution for the first time to present a rich and complex view of Britain, America, and Ireland in the Age of Revolutions.