Take your pick of Jack B Yeats on sale this May

From oils to watercolours, Adam’s and Whyte’s have 12 offerings by Ireland’s foremost artist

Highly collectable works by Jack B Yeats feature strongly in two forthcoming fine art sales, with the top lot, Glory to the Brave Singer, expected to fetch €300,000-€400,000.

Between the two auctions – Whyte’s Irish and International Art on Monday, May 29th, followed by Adam’s Important Irish Art on Wednesday, May 31st – there are 12 Jack B Yeats offerings.

At Whyte’s, Glory to the Brave Singer is the headline work (lot 23, €300,000-€400,000). Depicting a reclining woman, and executed in 1950, it last sold in a Christie’s sale in 2005 and has featured at RHA, Cork and London exhibitions over the years. It has rarely been exhibited in public, however, since becoming part of a private collection in 1971, catalogue notes state.

Next up is Justice, from 1946 (lot 26, €150,000-€200,000), which last sold through the auction house in 2019, when it achieved €150,000.


The final offering from Whyte’s is The Waterfall Gate (lot 29, €70,000-€90,000), a more diminutive oil measuring 9x14 inches. “The theme of the waterfall is a recurring one in Yeats’ oeuvre and one which became synonymous with his youth as well as the beauty of nature,” the catalogue notes state. It is also suggested this work may signify the artist’s mortality, as when he painted it at the age of 73, his brother William and sister Lolly had predeceased him.

Adam’s Near the Docks, a Jack Yeats from 1945 (lot 54, €100,000-€150,000), is evocative of the artist’s time with his grandfather, William Pollexfen in Sligo, where a pilot – a recurring theme in Yeats’ paintings – would guide merchant ships up the Garavogue river.

Eight watercolours in Adam’s sale offer more affordable works for those who wish to have a piece by Jack B Yeats. He painted the majority of these works in 1897-1910, a period when he was active as a cartoonist and illustrator. They feature race day vendors, circus, fairground and street performers, who were “unique characters ... to whom Yeats was repeatedly drawn during this period”, according to Dr Michael Connerty of the Institute of Art, Design and Technology in Dún Laoghaire.

Other important works in Whyte’s catalogue include Roderic O’Conor’s Le Loing at Sundown (lot 15, €200,000-€300,000). O’Conor’s radical technique of “translucent stains ... textured scumblings and thicker calligraphy strokes”, would have shocked many when it was painted circa 1902, and this influence can be traced back to the artists’ friendship with Van Gogh and Gauguin.

Moody west of Ireland skies with bulbous clouds and turf stacks are key signatures of Paul Henry’s Turf Bog (lot 20, €70,000-€90,000), while the sale has three literary giants painted in watercolour by Louis le Brocquy. WB Yeats (lot 42, €12,000-€18,000), Federico Garcia Lorca (lot 43, €8,000-€12,000) and Seamus Heaney (lot 41, €20,000-€30,000). The latter described the work “as an image that has seized hold of the eye and will not let go”.

Man (lot 40, €15,000-€20,000), an oil from le Brocquy’s Presences period, will be of interest to collectors of the artist’s early work.

Important works at Adam’s include a fine large oil by Gerard Dillon, Nora and Johnny Conneely Resting (lot 23, €80,000-€120,000). A snapshot of west of Ireland life, with dry stone walls presumed to be a scene from Roundstone, it is evocative of how the west of Ireland, particularly Connemara, held a special place in Dillon’s heart. Catalogue notes are interesting regarding the artist’s treatment of the two characters: Nora’s dress is painted with thick deliberate heaviness, whereas in contrast, Johnny’s clothes have been painted with thinned layers of oil – giving an almost translucent effect.

Both sales have impressive sculptural works including two interesting bronzes by John Behan at Whyte’s: Warrior and Bird (lot 76, €4,000-€6,000) and Saint Francis and the Birds (lot 77, €5,000-€7,000).

At the Adam’s sale, bronze casting sculptor Rowan Gillespie, who runs a one-man foundry in Clonlea, is represented by five pieces. There is the eerie looking Devil’s Advocate (lot 80, €7,000-€10,000) and the sublime Peace II (lot 84, €20,000-€30,000), which will remind readers of the sculptor’s striking Blackrock Dolmen on Temple Road in Blackrock, Co Dublin.

From the estates of Dr John and Mary Esther O’Driscoll of Kildare is Head (lot 136, €7,000-€10,000), a most unusual white marble carving by Gerda Frömel, the Czechoslovakian born sculptor who lived for an extended time in Ireland, where she met Werner Schürmann, a young German sculptor whom she married in 1955. Though she died tragically in a drowning incident while on holiday in Co Mayo aged 44 – her two-year-old daughter had died some years prior at their Dublin home – she was one of the most lauded sculptors in Ireland. In 1971 architects Scott Tallon Walker commissioned Sails, her large scale outdoor work for Carroll’s factory in Dundalk, which at the time was the largest private sculptural commission in Ireland. whytes.ie, adams.ie

Elizabeth Birdthistle

Elizabeth Birdthistle

Elizabeth Birdthistle, a contributor to The Irish Times, writes about property, fine arts, antiques and collectables