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Jack Butler Yeats, R.H.A. (1871-1957)
Jack Butler Yeats, R.H.A. (1871-1957)
Jack Butler Yeats, R.H.A. (1871-1957)
Jack Butler Yeats, R.H.A. (1871-1957)
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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more THE B.J. EASTWOOD COLLECTION: IMPORTANT SPORTING AND IRISH ART
Jack Butler Yeats, R.H.A. (1871-1957)

The Dark Man

Details
Jack Butler Yeats, R.H.A. (1871-1957)
The Dark Man
signed 'JACK. B. YEATS.' (lower right), inscribed 'THE DARK MAN' (on the turnover edge)
oil on canvas
18 x 24 in. (45.7 x 61 cm.)
Painted in 1913-19.
Provenance
Purchased directly from the artist by Mrs Helen Hackett, New York, August 1929.
John Scott Trotter, USA, 1960.
with Victor Waddington, London,
with Waddington Galleries, London, where purchased by B.J. Eastwood.
Literature
J.W.G., Freemans Journal, 5 April 1920, p. 2.
Colour Magazine, London, February 1921, p. 14, no. 1, pl. 5.
J.W.G., Freemans Journal, 21 February 1921, p. 2.
Exhibition catalogue, Jack B. Yeats: Oil Paintings, London, Victor Waddington, 1973, n.p., no. 1, illustrated.
H. Pyle, Jack B. Yeats: A Catalogue Raisonné of the Oil Paintings, Vol. I, London, 1992, p. 113, no. 128, illustrated.
H. Pyle, Jack B. Yeats: A Catalogue Raisonné of the Oil Paintings, Vol. III, London, 1992, p. 53, no. 128, illustrated.
Exhibited
London, Little Art Rooms, Pictures of Life in the West of Ireland, May - June 1919, exhibition not numbered.
Dublin, Royal Hibernian Academy, 1920, no. 181, catalogue not traced.
Dublin, Stephen's Green Gallery, Drawings and Paintings of Life in the West of Ireland, February - March 1921, no. 10.
Paris, Galeries Barbazanges, Exposition d'Art Irlandais, January - February 1922, exhibition not numbered.
London, Victor Waddington, Jack B. Yeats: Oil Paintings, March 1973, no. 1.
Special notice

Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.

Brought to you by

Nathaniel Nicholson
Nathaniel Nicholson Associate Director, Specialist

Lot Essay


Jack B. Yeats regarded The Dark Man as one of his most important paintings. It depicts a blind man being lead through the busy streets of a country town and is based on a sketch that the artist made in Tralee, Co. Kerry in 1913 (H. Pyle, Jack B. Yeats. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Oil Paintings, Vol. I, London, 1992, p. 113. The sketch is in Sketchbook 180 [105], Yeats Archive, National Gallery of Ireland). The man holds on to the shoulder of an older, more formally attired gent. The poses of the two figures contrast. The relatively frail figure of the blind man holds his head upwards while his more solidly built companion strides forward purposefully. Behind them a busy streetscape of brightly painted shop façades, a horse drawn cart, a donkey pulling a dray and men and women attending to their business form a colourful and visually rich backdrop. The closed eyes of the blind man evoke the sensual surroundings in which he walks. These include not only the strong sunlight and bright colours but the sounds and smells of the animals and the shouts and chatter of the townspeople as they rush about their affairs.

The outsider is a central theme in Yeats’s oeuvre, and this included those whose physical differences marked them out from society. In an 1899 watercolour, also entitled The Dark Man, Yeats depicts a blind beggar who sits with arm outstretched with a card around his neck proclaiming, ‘Pity the Dark Man Christians your charity on the Dark Man bestow that his affliction you may never know’ (H. Pyle, Jack B. Yeats. His Watercolours, Drawings and Pastels, Dublin, 1993, p. 80). In the later painting, none of the other figures pays the blind man any attention. Clearly the blind man being guided along was a familiar sight in Tralee and not worthy of notice, except by the visiting artist.

The work was critically acclaimed when it was exhibited at the Royal Hibernian Academy in Dublin in 1920 and at a one man exhibition, Drawings and Paintings of Life in the West of Ireland, in the city in 1921. The Freemans Journal thought The Dark Man to be ‘the most ambitious effort’ in the latter exhibition and praised the dramatic vividness of the composition, noting ‘the skill with which Mr. Yeats has avoided sentimental pitfalls’ (JWG, Freemans Journal, 21 February 1921, p. 2). Seeing the work at the RHA, the same writer noted that The Dark Man ‘bears the stamp of personality’ (Freemans Journal, 5 April 1920, p. 2). Another reviewer, comparing Yeats’s empathetic approach to Irish life to that of the writer John M. Synge, wrote that ‘The charm of Mr. Jack Yeats lies superbly in the unaffected naiveté of his scenes. His countryfolk are superb as they stand before us invested with the boyish glamour of their associations’ (quoted in B. Arnold, Jack Yeats, New Haven and London, 1998, p. 235). The painting was sold by Yeats to the New York gallerist, Helen Hackett in 1929.

Dr Róisín Kennedy

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