Jack of All Trades

Jack of All Trades

Many artists have applied their artistic skills to the production of commercial artwork such as book illustration and graphic design. In addition to providing a source of income, this type of work, though frowned upon by some artists, offered others an interesting and alternative channel for the expression of their particular visual concerns. A lesser–known area of this practice is the work that artists produced for the popular press, such as the illustrations and cartoons commissioned for newspapers and magazines. These works are often considered outside an artist’s normal oeuvre as reproductions were typically published unsigned and un–credited, or even under a pseudonym.

This exhibition features a selection of illustrations that highlight the tradition of commercial illustration by Irish artists who are best–known for their achievements in painting. This includes Jack B. Yeats, Aloysius O’Kelly and Richard Thomas Moynan. Although often overlooked, the illustrative work of these artists provides an alternative and valuable insight into their personality and particular social, political and aesthetic interests

Jack B. Yeats and 'Punch' magazine

Jack B. Yeats

Jack Butler Yeats (1871-1957), one of Ireland’s most acclaimed painters, began his career as a black and white journalistic illustrator in 1888, while still an art student in London. From 1891 to 1897, he became a regular contributor to numerous illustrated news publications of the Victorian era, submitting cartoon drawings to Ariel, Paddock life, Chums, Lika Joko, and others. During this period Yeats had just one drawing accepted by the hugely popular Punch or the London charivari.

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Irish Artists

Other Irish Artists

During the mid–nineteenth century, due to improved communications and technological developments, there was massive growth in the circulation of periodicals that reflected the public’s desire for information. Newspapers and magazines attracted a large readership and illustration was central to their success. The Illustrated London News, first published in 1842, was the world’s first weekly newspaper to contain illustrations in every edition. The popularity of illustration was particularly evident in the immense success of the English illustrated magazines Punch and Fun.

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Punch Magazine

Punch Magazine

In 1841, the engraver Ebenezer Landells and the journalist Henry Mayhew founded the humorous magazine Punch or the London Charivari. Inspired by the French periodical Le charivari, the founders sought to produce a family friendly, social and political, illustrated, satirical magazine. Co-edited by Mayhew and Mark Lemon the first issue reached the British public on 17 July 1841.  Punch published the works of great illustrators such as John Leech, Richard Doyle, George du Maurier and Phil May. Notable writers and poets such as William Makepeace Thackeray and Douglas Jerrold also featured. The core group of writers and illustrators, known collectively as the ‘Punch brotherhood’, shared a radical outlook which sought to challenge the political system and highlight the conditions of Britain’s working poor.

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