Masquerade and Spectacle:
The Circus and the Travelling Fair in the Work of Jack B. Yeats
18th July – 11th November 2007
Supported by Pioneer Investments
This exhibition was organised to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the death of Jack B. Yeats (1871-1957), one of Ireland’s most acclaimed modern artists.
Featuring some 23 paintings, drawn mainly from private collections, the exhibition focused on the theme of circuses and travelling fairs in the work of Yeats. This subject was crucial to the development of his oeuvre. From his earliest years he had a fascination with such theatrical spectacles, as is evident from his sketchbooks and early pirate plays. The exhibition included a number of such items from the Yeats Archive at the National Gallery, a vast store of material which was presented by Jack’s niece, Anne Yeats in 1994. It also featured both early and late oil paintings and showed how certain motifs such as the clown and the barrel man recurred in Yeats’s work over many decades.
The theme of the circus became much more than scenes of tension and excitement as seen for example in the Haute École Act, 1925 or Double Jockey Act, 1916. In later works: This Grand Conversation was Under the Rose, 1943, or They Come, They Come, 1936, the circus performers become powerful metaphors for the role of the artist, and the individual, in contemporary life.
Masquerade and Spectacle: The Circus and the Travelling Fair in the Work of Jack B. Yeats
© 2007 National Gallery of Ireland and the Authors
Editor Dr. Róisín Kennedy