2018-05-30-2018-05-27 --- 2018-05-27 00:16:29--18
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LOT :66
Jack Butler Yeats RHA (1871-1957)
Estimate EUR : €80,000.00 - €120,000.00
Auction Date : 30-05-2018

Description

Jack Butler Yeats RHA (1871-1957)

The Belle of Chinatown (1943)

Oil on canvas, 35.5 x 46cm (14 x 18")

Signed

 

Provenance: Purchased at the 1943 exhibition by well-known collector Jack Toohey. Sold in these rooms 11th December 1990 Lot 45, thence by descent.

 

Exhibited: 'Later Paintings' Jack B Yeats Exhibition, Victor Waddington Gallery, Dublin Nov 1943, Cat. No. 12;

'National Loan Exhibition' Jack B Yeats Exhibition June/July 1945, Cat. No. 126;

'From Yeats to Ballagh' Arts Council Exhibition, Lunds Konsthall, Sweden, April-May 1972, Cat. No. 52

 

Literature: 'Jack B Yeats: A Catalogue Raisonné of the Oil Paintings' Hilary Pyle, Vol 11, Cat. No. 582 p535

 

The genesis of this intriguing work is found in sketches of 1904 and 1905. In 1904 Yeats travelled to New York where an exhibition of his work had been organised by John Quinn. Whilst there he was intrigued by the sights of the city, especially its cosmopolitan mix of races and its streetscapes of signs and advertisements. He visited and sketched Chinatown several times. The young girl with the large flowery hat, the "Belle of Chinatown", is found in the pages of one of these New York sketchbooks (83, X180, Yeats Archive, National Gallery of Ireland). He drew a second sketch of the figure a year later when he was staying at Freshford with J. M. Synge. This is inscribed 'Chinatown, New York'.

 

Yeats has elaborated on these earlier drawings a great deal in this painting created forty years later. The child stands in the daylight in front of a darkened side-street. Next to her in the full glare of the light is a stall on which are displayed an array of hats at 5 c each. An old man, the vendor, is seated behind it. The contrast between youth and age is sharply observed with the man's gaze directed at the bizarre sight of a tiny girl wearing the enormous hat. The dramatic changes in light caused partly by the scale of the buildings also fascinated Yeats. On the left hand side numerous marks of yellow and red indicate the colourful signs and banners of Chinatown. The richly textured use of paint conveys the steep perspective of the streetscape while imparting a strange vignette of the city, reconstructed and enriched by Yeats's combination of memory and imagination. A related painting is "The Public Letter Writer", 1953, (Private Collection) which is also based on his memories of New York, highlighting again cosmopolitan life.

 

Dr. Roisin Kennedy

 

 

i. Hilary Pyle, Jack B. Yeats. A catalogue raisonné of the oil paintings, 1992, II, p.535.

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