Bowie’s Jack B. Yeats up for auction

The Model is home to a substantial collection of Jack B. Yeats’ work. “Painted Universe” an exhibition of Yeats’ paintings and “A Broadside”, are currently on display at The Model. Although we possess a significant amount of Yeats’ work we do not, regrettably, have it all. The Model houses 50 of the artist’s oil paintings, a relatively small portion of the 1300 paintings in his entire body of work. The majority of Yeats’ oeuvre has been snapped up by various public art institutions, so that they may remain in public view, while others have been purchased by private collector’s, often never to see the light of day again.

It is always a curious, delightful surprise when a painting once thought lost, resurfaces in the public domain. It is even more curious when said painting comes from the collection of one of the biggest artists in history. “Sleep Sound”, by Jack. B Yeats (1955) an Oil-on-canvas, valued at up to £180,000, was owned by the late David Bowie. Bowie – an avid art collector with a keen taste for modern and contemporary American and British Art – purchased “Sleep Sound” anonymously in 1993 at Sotheby’s for £45,500. The painting was previously owned by a private art collector, Eleanor de Bretteville Reid, an American who bought the painting for just £600, from the Waddington Gallery in London in the 1950s.

The painting was created in 1955 and is typical of the wild, abstract style that Yeats’ developed in his later years. According to numerous media reports, the painting depicts two figures lying on a moor beneath a heavy sky. The merging of these figures, to the sky and land, is a not too removed from the composition and style of “Leaving Far Point”, perhaps the most infamous of Sligo’s publicly owned Niland collection.

Sleep Sound

Just some of the artists claiming a space in Bowie’s enormous art collection are Damien Hirst, Frank Auerbach and Henry Moore. While certain pieces of the collection will be retained by Bowie’s surviving relatives, the remaining pieces will be up for auction. The collection is estimated to raise £10 million although it is expected that Bowie’s more enthusiastic and financially sound fans may cause a bidding war.

On the topic of Sleep Sound Bowie previously remarked to Irish journalist Eamonn Carr: “I have a painting of his of two bums lying on a hillside, sleeping. The apocryphal story is that it was one of the paintings which influenced Samuel Beckett when he was writing ‘Waiting For Godot’, which I’d love to believe.”

On Jack B. Yeats, Bowie said: “There’s something about the life and death motifs in his work that maybe are not dissimilar [to Bowies own work]. Just to have that kind of work around me, I find, influences me tremendously.”

“Sleep Sound”– and some others from Bowie’s collection – will be exhibited in Ireland for four days from September 1st at the RHA Gallery, Dublin.


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