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Jack B. Yeats (1871-1957)- Johnny Paterson singing ’Bridget Donoghue’

Johnny Patterson singing 'Bridget Donoghue' (The Singing Clown)

Jack B. Yeats (1871 – 1957)

© Estate of Jack B Yeats. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2013

  • Artist
    Jack B. Yeats
  • Title
    Johnny Patterson singing 'Bridget Donoghue' (The Singing Clown)
  • Date
  • Dimensions
    59 × 45cm
  • Medium
    Oil on canvas
  • Collection
    Niland Collection
  • Provenance
    Presented by James A. Healy in New York to Sligo County Library and Museum. In memory of his parents, John and Catherine Healy in 1966.

The clown was a figure of unending fascination for Yeats who, like other modernist artists, saw parallels between his role as an artist and that of the clown within the circus. This painting depicts a specific historical figure, the legendary Johnny Patterson (1840-89). Yeats saw him perform in Sligo as a child and he appears in a number of his later oil paintings. An acrobat and circus performer, Patterson went to New York in 1879 where he met with great success. After his return to Ireland he set up his own circus company, Patterson’s Great United States Circus. His writing and performing of his own songs, such as Bridget Donoghue, earned him the title of the Singing Clown. Patterson died tragically as a result of injuries sustained by an attack in the circus ring when members of the crowd reacted violently to his rendition of a political song.

Patterson is shown singing to a crowd in a circus tent. Beside him stand enthusiastic members of the audience who have come down from their seats to join him in the ring. Patterson is set apart from them by his elevated position and by his clown’s make-up and elaborate costume which was embroidered with shamrocks and Celtic harps.

Written by Roisin Kennedy

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  1. Henri Fantin-Latour (1836-1904) - Wood Nymph
  2. Louis le Brocquy - The Táin - Lion
  3. Nick Miller - John McGahern
  4. George William Russell(AE) (1867-1935) - The Sower
  5. Jack B. Yeats (1871-1957)- A Sunday Morning in Sligo
  6. George William Russell (AE) (1867-1935) - Portrait of Kitsy Franklin
  7. John B. Yeats (1839-1922) - Portrait of John O’Leary
  8. Jack B. Yeats - White Shower
  9. Kathy Prendergast (b.1958) - Untitled
  10. Norah McGuinness (1903 - 1980) - Hanrahan’s Vision (Illustrations for The Stories of Red Hanrahan)
  11. Jack B. Yeats (1871-1957)- Portrait Figure of an Irish Gentleman
  12. Jack B. Yeats (1871 - 1957) - Communicating with Prisoners
  13. Jack B. Yeats (1871 - 1957) - Singing The Minstrel Boy
  14. Louis le Brocquy - The Táin - Mare and Foals
  15. Rita Duffy (b.1959) - Belfast Pieta
  16. Jack B. Yeats (1871-1957) - An Island Man
  17. Jack B. Yeats (1871-1957)- The Bay Pilot, The River Pilot, The Stevedore, The Ganger and the Gang
  18. Jack B. Yeats (1871-1957)- Sailor home from the sea
  19. Jack B. Yeats (1871-1957)- The Sea and the Lighthouse
  20. Sean McSweeney - The Road
  21. John B. Yeats (1839-1922) - Portrait of Susan Mitchell
  22. Sean Keating (1889-1977)- Old Kitty
  23. Estella Solomons - Portrait of Sean Milroy
  24. Jack B. Yeats (1871-1957)- Fortune and her wheel