Jack B Yeats was one of the greatest of all Irish artists, and the country’s foremost exponent of Expressionism, and 20 of his works, covering all areas of his career, will soon be on display in the Galway City Museum.
The exhibition will be officially opened on Saturday November 17 at 2pm, with the works being displayed on the first floor gallery. The museum has received the works on loan from The Model contemporary art centre in Sligo.
The works range from the early years of the 20th century to the late 1920s and show the artist’s evolution over that period. The illustrations show Yeats’ use of clear lines, and his highly linear style and depict encounters between people in a graveyard. The large work Saint Asicus (1903 ) shows the influence of Art Nouveau.
Yeats was always concerned to depict everyday life in Ireland and major political and social events of his time. Indeed many of his works are as defining a record of the turbulent and crucial era leading up to and after Independence as any photograph or written document.
A great example of this is Communicating With Prisoners (1924 ) where a group of Republican women try to call out to Anti-Treaty prisoners incarcerated in a large prison towerblock. An Island Funeral (1923 ) depicts mourners ferrying a coffin towards the Blasket Islands and highlights the differences in dress between elderly island women and their younger counterparts.
The Expressionist movement in Germany was a massive influence on Yeats and its impact on his art was dramatic.
The Singing Clown, painted in 1928, reveals the dramatic change in his approach to painting from the impressionistic style of the aforementioned works towards abstraction. Clear lines and precision have given way the more fluid, looser, application of paint, without sacrificing the individuality of facial expression which is a hallmark of Yeats’ style.
Breandán Ó hEaghra of the Galway City Museum said it is “a great honour” for the museum to be holding such an exhibition.
“Yeats is certainly in the top five of Irish artists,” he said, “and as the years go on he seems to be becoming more and more important. He is certainly our most important Impressionist and Expressionist painter and in terms of the monetary value of his work he is the nation’s number one artist.”
Mr Ó hEaghra is encouraging Galwegians to view the exhibition. “That we have works by Jack B Yeats is something special,” he says, “and we have many fine permanent and temporary exhibitions on show as well and it is all free of charge.”