Jack B Yeats at the National Gallery of Ireland

At the moment the older parts of the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin is undergoing some major restoration work so the exhibition space is restricted to the modern extension. This means that the Gallery has had to be particularly selective with the works on display. I think they have done a good job. They’ve concentrated on the “Masterpieces” from the Collection”, hung in two galleries; one featuring works from from the European collection, from the early Renaissance through to the mid-twentieth century, and the second room showing highlights from their collection of works by Irish artists. There were also a couple of smaller temporary exhibitions.

The room showing the Irish works included a display of several paintings by Jack B. Yeats (1871-1957). Although he is largely unknown outside his native country, the Irish National Gallery have a large collection of his works which span his career. The works in the current exhibition are a good cross section and show how his style changed and evolved over time.

Yeats initially painted in watercolour, but about 1906 he began painting regularly in oil. His early paintings were rather conservative in style and, in my view, most of his paintings, although displaying a clear talent as a draftsman, were nothing particularly special. Here’s an example

© Estate of Jack B Yeats. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2011

A Cleric, 1913

He was clearly influenced by the Impressionists. This one rather reminds me of the paintings by Degas, with whom Yeats had a common interest in horse racing


‘Before the Start’ Galway Point to Point (click on image for link to larger, better quality version)

But in the 1920s there was a major change in his style of painting. He started to use bright colours and he began to paint with extremely free and loose brushstrokes with the paint thickly applied. The paintings became much more interesting, like this one, painted in 1923


The Liffey Swim, 1923 (click on image for link to larger, better quality version)

Over the years becoming more and more abstract


Men of Destiny (1946)

To the point where in later paintings it’s hard to make out what he’s depicting, rather like Monet’s later works from his garden in Giverney


Above the Fair (1947)

Although he was born in London, and lived in England for a number of years, he was a passionate Irishman, and a supporter of Irish Independence. His subject matter included modern scenes of circuses, music halls, and horse races, moody landscapes of Ireland’s west coast, and themes from Irish mythology.

One of the temporary exhibitions taking place during my visit featured his sketchbooks. More about that in another post.


3 thoughts on “Jack B Yeats at the National Gallery of Ireland

    • I think it’s important to make space for other things than work so try to take advantages of the opportunities travel present. In this case I added on an extra day to my visit to Ireland so I could spend a little time in Dublin. And I managed to pack a lot into a couple of half days.

  1. Pingback: The sketchbooks of Jack B Yeats | Down by the Dougie

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