Doherty, Agnes

Date and place of birth:
ca.1828, Manchester
Date and place of death:
registered July - September 1889, Chelsea, London
(fl) ca. 1850 -1855
Known places of work:
Manchester, Nottingham, Stoke-on-Trent, Salford, Nuneaton
Known techniques:
Known materials:
Paper and card
Rectangular maplewood


Born in Manchester ca.1828, AGNES JOSEPHINE MARY DOHERTY was the daughter of John Doherty (1801 - 1854), the Irish-born trade union organiser, reporter, and radical social reformer. She is known solely for a series of full-length cut and embellished silhouettes of robed Roman Catholic priests produced in the mid-nineteenth century.

Of the series, some are signed "Agnes Doherty - Artist". All are inscribed with sitters' names and towns where the works were taken. With locations in Lancashire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire and Nottingham recorded, her career, such as it was, appears itinerant.

Competently cut, the profiles vary in size. Bronze highlighting was applied with moderate skill to define each priest's dress. In some examples, sitters' faces are rendered in flesh tones. A simple shadow line is painted at their feet.

As market demand for profiles of Catholic clergy was likely limited, it's probable, though no trade label or newspaper advertisement has surfaced, that silhouettes of the general public were also offered to maximise potential earnings. It also transpires Agnes' elder sister Mary (1827 - 1878) was working in tandem with her 'on the road'.

The 1851 Census describes Mary and Agnes both as "Artists and Limners". Doubtless chaperoned by their mother Laura Maria née Banks (1799 - 1872), all three were lodging in the abode of a 'dealer in Earthenware' in Nuneaton, Warwickshire. As far as known, no silhouettes by Mary Doherty are recorded. However, Agnes appears to have continued with varied artistic endeavours into the 1880s.

Married in Manchester in 1855 to Polish-born photographer Alexander Jan Michael Szarkowski (1829 - 1889), the LEICESTER MERCURY of the 2nd of August 1856 advertises "Monsieur and Madame Szarkowski" offering photographic and crayon likenesses in their "...unrivalled style...and miniatures in ivory from 10s 6d".

JONES MERCANTILE directory of 1865 records their studio, then in Stourbridge, Worcestershire as the "Polska Photographic Establishment", while 1861 -1881 Census records locate their practice variously in Gloucestershire, Berkshire and finally Aldershot, Hampshire. The 1881 Census lists Szarkowski a "Photographer", Agnes an "Artist in Painting", while their 2 sons and 2 daughters born between 1856 - 1866 are recorded "Photographic Assistants".

Alexander Szarkowski's death was registered in Chelsea between January - March 1889. In May, months before Agnes' own demise, their eldest son John (1856 - 1920) was committed to Chelsea's Union Workhouse with mental health issues. Later asylum records suggest the issues remained unresolved. Of their remaining offspring, Vincent (1858 - 1901) became an habitual petty criminal, dying a 'vagrant' in Chatham Workhouse, Kent. His elder sister Maria (1863 - 1906) became a Franciscan nun. Younger sister Agnes (1866 - 1935) died unmarried.

Agnes' own death was registered in Chelsea July - September 1889. Her interment, like her husband's, is unrecorded.

Revised 23 September 2023 (Brian Wellings)



Additional research about Agnes Doherty:

Source: McKechnie (Author of, British Silhouette Artists and their Work 1760-1860)

Doherty, Agnes (McKechnie Section 1)