Dimensions: 35.5 × 23cm
Medium: Oil on panel
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.
A man stands on a summer’s evening holding a ballad sheet in his hands. His open mouth and expressive face indicate that he is singing. Behind him modest white-washed houses and a thatched building with a cart-wheel propped up against its wall suggest the modest rural setting where the performance is taking place. The ballad singer was a recurring theme in Yeats’s work, appearing in his Broadsheets and Broadsides as a central figure in Irish life. Ballad singers were nomadic people who travelled from fair to fair selling cheaply printed copies of ballads as souvenirs of their performances. Yeats collected many of these and used them as titles or as subjects for his work. Ballads were an important feature of popular entertainment and of the dispersal of music and culture in 19th century Ireland. The singer who could capture the attention and imagination of the community through his rendition of popular ballads was for Yeats an artist of considerable influence and significance.
The painting was given to James A. Healy by the artist in 1939 and subsequently presented to Sligo.
Written by Roisin Kennedy