My Pick – Steve Wickham

My favourite Jack B. Yeats here in The Model is “Sailor home from the Sea.” It was painted in 1912. It’s oil on panel. It’s quite a small little painting, probably about 14 inches by 10 inches. It depicts a red bearded man with a sailor’s cap, a white neck scarf and a black suit with a bright red waistband. He’s got one hand in his pocket (holding on to his money?) and one hand with a little glass of whiskey raised to the sky.

Under his left arm there is a glimpse of the ocean behind him and all around are thatched cottages. He’s standing on the road with a white sky behind him. He’s got an amazing red beard; He looks like Luke Kelly from the Dubliners. There is a great glint in his eye. He’s obviously pleased to be home, raising a toast to heaven.

I love the spirit of the clean lines that Jack uses here. He usually uses a lot of blurred lines, it seems to me he was a very fast painter. There’s something considered about this painting, he reaches something in it, that for me is almost perfection. He’s in time with the rest of his contemporaries in 1912.

It’s an earlier work of his, before he gets to the much looser freestyle we associate with Jack B Yeats. It’s probably one of his last tight paintings; it’s a bit like his cartoons. What I like is that there’s less anguish in it. It seems to be a happy man painting this. This painting captures something that I love.

Being a musician, I know what this guy feels. You go away from home for a long time and then you come back delighted to be home. It’s that happiness Jack has captured here.


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