The year of Jack B Yeats: artist’s 1950 ‘masterpiece’ could fetch record €2m

‘Shouting’ described as one of artist’s greatest achievements ahead of Whyte’s auction

Coinciding with the 150th anniversary of the birth of one of the country's most important artists, two forthcoming sales will test the market for the year that has been all things Jack B Yeats.

In line with the current exhibition, Painting and Memory at the Beit Wing of the National Gallery and The Man Who Painted Ireland, the insightful documentary on the artist which is still available on RTÉ Player, Whyte's of Molesworth Street recently announced it expects a new record could be set for a work by Yeats at its Important Irish Art sale.

Lot 37, entitled Shouting, a very large 1950 canvas, “could make €2 million or possibly more”, according to the auction house. At more than 100cm by 150cm, it is the largest size canvas that Yeats ever painted. He created six of these – of which only two are in private hands – and now one of these, Shouting, will be auctioned this coming Monday at the RDS.

Describing the work as a "truly magnificent masterpiece" and "of epic proportions . . . an Irish art trophy of significant national importance", auctioneer Ian Whyte reiterates the words of Yeats's historian and compiler of the artist's Catalogue Raisonne, Hilary Pyle, who describes the painting as "one of the artist's greatest achievements". The painting – which depicts three characters, two of which are yelling, or perhaps singing, and one with an arm in the air in a devil may care stance – is listed at €1.5 million - €2 million.


Previous records

Previous records for Yeats include Whyte's and Christie's Ernie O'Malley sale in 2019, when Reverie achieved €1.4 million (including fees); The Wild Ones, upon which the hammer fell at premium inclusive €1.31 million at Sotheby's, London in May 1999; and A Fair Day, Mayo, previously owned by actress Vivien Leigh and said to remind her of Gone with the Wind, which achieved €1 million more than a decade ago at Adam's in 2011.

Residents of Limerick may be familiar with the work as it has been on loan to the University of Limerick for the past decade. Other notable works in the sale, all of which are on exhibition this weekend at the Royal Dublin Society, include two works by Grace Henry: Marigolds and Fortune Teller, €2,000 - €3,000 and €5,000 - €7,000, respectively, and from Anne Madden, widow of Louis le Brocquy, is an impressive diptych Deep Stream painted towards the end of her Pompeii and Garden series (€10,000 - €15,000).

On Wednesday, December 8th, Adam’s, of St Stephen’s Green, Important Irish Art sale will also feature some strong offerings from the same period. Through the Streets to the Hills, by Yeats, painted in 1950, depicts a view of Fitzwilliam Street in Dublin where Yeats lived until he retired to a home in Portobello. This late work portrays two men, elegantly dressed, in a sunlit gap striding purposefully towards Leeson Street, with the Georgian houses of upper Fitzwilliam Street cast in shadow against a view of the Dublin mountains in the distance (€100,000 - €150,000).

How Many Miles to London Town refers to Colin Middleton’s recurring theme of the horrors of the Blitz and world wars. Listed with an estimate of €30,000 - €50,000, it features alongside two other important works by the modernist painter. The Trojan Horse is said to be his reaction to the Spanish civil war (€15,000 - €20,000) while Abstract with Toy Train, a merrier work was commissioned in the early 1970s for Morelli’s ice-cream parlour on the seafront in Portstewart, Co Derry (€20,000 - €30,000).

Le Brocquy

No Irish art sale is complete without le Brocquy, and here the artist is well represented with Ancestral Head, which stems from his interest in skulls from an exhibition at Musee de l’Homme in Paris 1964 (€60,000 - €80,000). More French museum influence is Etude d’Après une Concubine de Mort, based on an Egyptian limestone statuette in the Louvre, but the catalogue suggests it may have a much more personal inspiration.

“His wife, Anne, underwent difficult spinal surgery because of legacy injuries sustained in a riding accident, with a long recuperation and the motif of the spine and indeed of injury, and the concept of fragility, are at the heart of the Presence paintings.” (€40,000 - €60,000).

Three Paul Henry paintings range in value from €70,000 - €100,000 for Western Lake and Mountain Landscape, €100,000 - €150,000 for Bogland, Connemara, and up to €140,000 - €180,000 for the classic Cottages and Turfstacks in the West of Ireland. Two of the paintings featured in the 1993 Hugh Lane Gallery exhibition devoted to the work of the artist and his first wife Grace and Bogland, Connemara was illustrated on the catalogue cover.

Appearing for the first time, having not previously been seen outside the artist's family, is Patrick Swift's self-explanatory, Portrait of Lucian Freud in Patrick Swift's Hatch Street Studio, which is listed at €20,000 - €30,000.

Works from the live online sale will be on view at the saleroom from Friday, December 3rd.