Date: c. 1896
Dimensions: 36 × 26cm
Collection: Niland Collection
Provenance: Purchased from the Dawson gallery in 1968 by Sligo County Library and Museum.
This monochrome watercolour is an illustration to W.B. Yeats’s Stories of Red Hanrahan, which first appeared in The Secret Rose, (1897). This mystical text centres on the character of Red, a poet who sees the lovers of Ireland walking in procession on Ben Bulben. In this scene he stands and shouts to banish the ghost of one of these unhappy lovers, Devorgilla. The story and Yeats’s illustration of it are closely connected to the landscape and mythology of Sligo. Red Hanrahan stands on the dramatic rock of Lugnagall beneath which the Sligo countryside expands. Behind the gesturing figure the distinctive profile of Knocknarea with the tomb of Queen Meabh on its summit adds to the mystery and power of the landscape.
The painting was never published as an illustration and remained in Jack Yeats’s possession. His father, John Butler Yeats, provided the illustrations for W.B.’s book. The theme of Red Hanrahan recurs in Jack’s later work. It provided for him as with W.B. a fascinating symbol of the special relationship that exists between the artist and the mythical and historical significance of the land.
Written by Roisin Kennedy