Dimensions: 91.5 × 61cm
Medium: Oil on canvas
Collection: Niland Collection
Provenance: Purchased by public subscription from the Capuchin Annual in 1962
This view of the funeral of republican, Harry Boland (1884-1922) was, according to Jack B. Yeats, the only visual record of the event. Cameras were confiscated at the gates of the cemetery. Boland, a former close friend of Michael Collins, died while trying to avoid arrest in Dublin in 1922. He had opposed the treaty and his death was a pivotal moment in the Irish Civil War.
Yeats shows the burial scene at Glasnevin Cemetery with the O’Connell Monument dominating the background. While the earth from the freshly dug grave is evident in its bluish colour, Yeats’s focus is the crowd rather than the coffin or body of Boland. Prominent male republicans including a group holding rifles, stand close to the flower strewn plot. Female figures in black mourning stand behind them. Beside them flanking the grave are members of Cuman na mBan, carrying wreaths of flowers. The tension of these regimented groups of figures is relieved by the two onlookers in the left hand foreground who appear to chat and comment on the scene in an informal manner. The work was exhibited at the RHA in 1923 under the title ‘A Funeral’ but was not mentioned in reviews. Later in 1942 Thomas MacGreevy drew public attention to the painting in an illustrated article in the widely read Capuchin Annual. He argued that ‘Yeats had risen to the full height of the heroic in art’ and that the work ‘had lifted the contemporary scene on to the plane of historical painting’(1).
(1) T. MacGreevy, ‘Three Historical Paintings by Jack B. Yeats’, Capuchin Annual 1942, pp.238-51.
Written by Roisin Kennedy