Jack B Yeats cartoons to go on show for first time

Thu, Jul 26, 2012, 01:00

CARTOONS SHOWING the dry, quirky humour of painter Jack B Yeats will go on public display for the first time on Saturday.

The 56 illustrations by the Irish artist are part of 500 published in British satirical magazine Punch under his pseudonym, W Bird, between 1910 and 1948.

The black-and-white cartoons “offer an insight into the artist’s dry humour and fertile imagination,” said Pauline Swords, co-curator of the exhibition at the National Gallery of Ireland.

Satire about social class, professions, everyday life and political commentary are among the subjects tackled by Yeats, co-curator Donal Maguire said.

Many of the illustrations “don’t fit with the current humour and are very much of their time”, he added.

One illustration that shows his “quirky sense of humour” depicts troops in France with shields, Mr Maguire said. On the front of the shields are images of soldiers running away from battle to give the enemy the wrong impression, while advertisements are displayed on the back of the shields.

The cartoons were purchased by the gallery from Harrods owner Mohamed Al-Fayed in 2004 after his relaunched magazine ceased publication.

Stylistically the cartoons are different from the oil paintings for which Yeats is best known. “They very much fit within the style of illustration of the period and he was influenced by the top illustrators,” Mr Maguire said.

The cartoons represent “a very different aspect of his career and fit within the context of what a lot of artists were doing”. Many artists at the time did commercial artwork or poster design as a source of income or as an outlet, Mr Maguire said.

Illustrations by other well-known Irish artists will also be on display, such as Richard Moynan (known for Military Manoeuvres) and Aloysius O’Kelly (known for Mass in a Connemara Cabin).

Jack of all Trades: Yeats’s “Punch” Cartoons and Illustrations by Irish Painters opens at the National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, on Saturday and runs until December 2nd. Admission is free.

nationalgallery.ie