On the white strand

Denis Donoghue

  • The Selected Writings of Jack B. Yeats edited by Robin Skelton
    Deutsch, 246 pp, £12.99, March 1991, ISBN 0 233 98646 4

Jack Yeats’s paintings are much admired and, it appears, universally loved. I recall a large show of them a few years ago at the National Gallery in Dublin. I have rarely seen people looking at paintings with such evident pleasure. Admittedly, the show was in Dublin, and Yeats is deemed to be Ireland’s greatest painter, so those who stood before the choice paintings were prejudiced in their favour. Besides, the Ireland that appears in those paintings is long gone, and while few of us cry out for its recovery, we are touched by its residual signs. Most of the famous paintings were done between the turn of the century and, say, 1950: these include Memory Harbour, The County of Mayo, The Priest, The Cake Cart at the Races, A Daughter of the Circus, Clonskea, The Liffey, Swim, In the Tram, The Bar, The Donkey Show, A Fair Day, Mayo, Islandbridge Regatta, Crossing the Metal Bridge, The Quiet Man and The Harvest Moon. A favourite of mine is an earlier work, a watercolour, Not Pretty but Useful, of a boxer sitting in his corner.

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