Jack Butler Yeats RHA (1871 – 1957) The Water Steps (1947) ...

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Jack Butler Yeats RHA (1871 – 1957) The Water Steps (1947) Oil on canvas, 45.7 x 60.9cm (18 x 24” ) Signed Provenance: Sold to Victor Waddington Galleries, June 1948; C.E.Knight; Dr B. Collins; Sale, Christies, London 8 Nov 1990, lot 106; Sale, these rooms, 26 May 1999, lot 80; Private Collection. Exhibited: London, Victor Waddington Galleries, Paintings, Oct. 1947, cat. no.19; New York, Coe Kerr Gallery, Centennial Exhibition, Nov. 1971, cat. no.17; London, Victor Waddington, Oil Paintings, March 1973, cat. no. 18. Literature: Hilary Pyle, Jack B. Yeats, A Catalogue Raisonne of the Oil Paintings, no. 843 (illustrated). This late Jack B. Yeats oil depicts a view of a quayside with a street scene in the upper level and the dark cool waters of the river and the grey stone walls of the quay below. To the right two figures climb down the steep quayside steps carrying buckets as if going to launder or to play in the depths below. Their companion leans over the stone wall looking on as they clamour downward. Beside him on the street a horse and jockey pass by, a strange intrusion into the otherwise urban setting. Two other figures stand on the left observing the scene. Hilary Pyle thinks that the work relates to a memory of Yeats’s childhood which would make the town depicted, the Sligo of the artist’s youth. The bizarre inclusion of the horse and rider would also be more fitting to a country town than Dublin where Yeats lived for most of his life. The exploration of the subterranean world of the waterside in close proximity to the streetscape is a subject that Yeats explored in several other oils including Return from the Picnic, (1947, Private Collection) and Houses on the Bridge Road, (1945, Private Collection). The work is sumptuously painted in rich colours and thick impasto. The dark stone walls of the buildings and the quaysides are subtly delineated with touches of bright yellow and orange that come from the evening sun whose yellow haze dominates the top left-hand corner of the composition. This strong light turns the horse into a flaming orange phantom like apparition. Elsewhere touches of indigo across the composition introduce staccato notes of pure colour – deep tones as opposed to the sharpness of the yellow and orange. Yeats creates a complex surface with interacting passages of paint that convey the effect of light and shade on the visual and tactile perception of the built environment. The human figures and the horse seem to be just temporary intrusions into this space. Róisín Kennedy, April 2024

Auction Date:
29th May 24 at 6pm BST

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Sale Dates:
29th May 2024 6pm BST (Lots 1.00 to 124.00)