Unseen Yeats work owned by Graham Greene up for auction


TWO PAINTINGS by Jack B Yeats, bought more than 60 years ago by the English novelist Graham Greene in Paris, have reappeared on the international art market.

They will be sold at auction in London next week by fine art auctioneers Christie’s, which said that one of the paintings alone may be worth more than €500,000.

A Horseman Enters a Town at Nightwas painted by Yeats, then aged 77, in 1948 and has never been seen in public.

Bernard Williams, the international director of Irish art at Christie’s, described it as a major work which would “appeal to collectors worldwide and not just in the 32 counties”. He added: “A Yeats with a horse always makes more than a Yeats without a horse.” The oil on canvas measures 24in x 36in and has a pre-sale estimate of £300,000-£500,000.

The second, smaller painting (an oil-on-board measuring 8in x 13in) is titled Man In A Room Thinkingand dates from 1947. It has a pre-sale estimate of £30,000-£50,000.

Christie’s said this painting had been exhibited once in public – when lent by Greene for an exhibition in London in 1963.

“The Model Museum, Sligo, requests that the purchaser of this work allow its inclusion in a major exhibition of the artist’s work to take place between February and April 2011,” Christie’s added.

Yeats, who died in 1957, is one of the most-collected – and expensive – of Irish artists. The highest price paid for one of his paintings was achieved in 1999 when Sotheby’s in London sold The Wild Onesfor just over £1.2 million.

Greene, who died in 1991, was one of the most renowned British writers of the 20th century. His bestselling novels included Brighton Rockand Our Man in Havana.

Greene famously converted to Catholicism as a young man and was often regarded as a “Catholic novelist”.

He travelled widely and lived in the south of France for many years where he gained notoriety in the 1980s for his pamphlet J’accuse, in which he denounced corruption among local officials and the police in the city of Nice.

He eventually moved to the Swiss lake resort town of Vevey – becoming a neighbour of actor Charlie Chaplin – where he died aged 86 in 1991. Greene had separated (in 1948) from his wife Vivien, with whom he had a son and daughter, but he never divorced her. It is understood that the paintings are being sold by his descendants.

Both paintings will be sold in an auction of 20th-century British and Irish art on November 11th. The sale will also include paintings by other Irish artists including Sir William Orpen, Sir John Lavery, Sean Scully and Markey Robinson.