My Pick – Imelda Ryan Jones

The painting that I have chosen for the My Pick series is Leaving the Far Point by Jack B. Yeats. I love that Jack depicted himself, his wife Cotty and his favorite uncle walking on a Sligo beach in the image. Jack presented the painting to his wife two months before she passed away. It is likely the last painting he ever gave her.

Leaving the Far Point reminds me of Chagall, there’s something about Jack’s use of colour that strikes a resemblance of Chagall’s work for me. I also like the vague way that the figures in the image appear. It’s a real skill isn’t it? To use loose brush marks but still have such defined figures within it. A lot of our collection of Jack B. Yeats’ work has that feature. It’s a big contrast to his earlier works that were illustrative in style; the lines are very clear and deliberate. I believe this loose, undefined style suits the story behind the painting. Jack’s figure is clear. The figure that is extremely faded is his uncle, who died many years before. The central figure is his beloved Cotty, whose health was failing at the time and Leaving the Far Point was in fact a gift for Cotty’s last birthday in 1947.

As his uncle, George Pollexfen, died in 1910 long before Jack painted Leaving the Far Point in 1946, I think that this piece has an element of wishful thinking behind it. Maybe he never had an opportunity to walk on Rosses Point strand together with his favorite uncle and his beloved wife? Maybe he wished that they could all be together again, and maybe his wife was too unwell to venture out? I have read that they are the two people he loved most in his life.

I really like that he depicted his uncle too. I can imagine them walking on the beach while Jack was young. Maybe his uncle supported and influenced him to become a painter. We rarely get the time to celebrate those who inspire us enough. We look at someone who has done great things with their life and we usually hardly know anything at all about the people who helped them get there. Jack remembers his uncle and his wife, and that’s inspiring.

After Cotty died Jack decided to donate Leaving the Far Point to the people of Sligo. The painting meant so much to Jack and he gifted it to us. This was a catalyst for Nora Niland to take her vision forward and create a collection of art for Sligo. That draws me to the painting too, and I love The Niland Collection book, published by The Model, that tells the story of the collection of art owned by the people of Sligo.