Dimensions: 91.5 × 61cm
Medium: Oil on canvas
Collection: The 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 openly opposed the treaty and his death was a pivotal moment in the Irish Civil War.
Yeats shows the burial scene at Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin 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 of onlookers 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
Born 1871, London, United Kingdom.
Died 1957, Dublin, Ireland.
Jack B. Yeats was the youngest son of the portrait painter John Butler Yeats and the brother of the writer William Butler Yeats. Though he was born in London, Jack spent most of his childhood in Sligo in the care of his maternal grandparents. It was a place that influenced him deeply and he later said that every painting he produced “had a thought of Sligo in it”.
Jack studied in London at the South Kensington School of Art and later at the Westminster School of Art, though he was largely self-taught and had his own distinct style from the beginning. While still at school he was working as an illustrator and contributing to various publications such as Paddock Life, the Daily Graphic and the Vegetarian.
His early work, mostly in watercolour, focuses on the Sligo of his boyhood. These works display his emerging interest in the people and places of every day life- the market day, the sailor, and the races. In 1894 he married his fellow art student Mary Cottenham White, and they settled in England. He held his first solo show in London in 1897 and shortly afterwards he began to focus solely on Irish subject matter. In 1910 he returned to live in Ireland. The same year he began to contribute illustrations to the satirical publication Punch under the pseudonym W. Bird, and over the next 30 years he supplied the magazine with over five hundred drawings.
In 1905 Yeats toured Connemara with the writer John M Synge who had been commissioned to write a series of articles for the Manchester Guardian on life in the west of Ireland. This trip, coupled with his upbringing in Sligo, made an indelible impression on the artist. His wide-ranging interest in all of humanity led him to depict subjects ranging from street scenes, to boxing matches, the races, and funerals.
In 1910 he returned to Ireland and settled first in Bray and later in Dublin. He became an associate member of the
in 1915 and a full member the following year. He was a founder member of the Society of Dublin Painters in 1920, and in 1922 he participated in the Exposition d’Art Irlandais in Paris. He won the silver and the bronze medals at the
e Olympiade in Paris in 1924 for the painting The Liffey Swim.
Yeats’ early paintings were in watercolour and he was over thirty by the time he began to work regularly in oils. For years his style remained essentially conservative, but in the mid-1920s a profound change began to take place. Yeats’s handling grew much freer, his forms were defined by brushstrokes rather than by line, his colours grew richer and more luminous and his earlier realism gradually gave way to a moody, intimate and highly personal romanticism. These tendencies grew even more marked over the next two decades, until in his final years when his subject-matter is sometimes buried and almost obliterated by rich impasto, bravura brushwork and flame-like areas of colour.
He exhibited widely in Dublin and London, and in 1932 held solo shows at the Ferragail Galleries and the Barbizon Museum of Irish Art, New York. He first showed with Victor Waddington Galleries, Dublin in 1943, and continued to exhibit there until his death. A major retrospective of his work opened at the Tate Gallery, London in 1948. Jack B Yeats died in Dublin on March 28 1957.