Saturday, April 21, 2012

Suffragette City

One of the perks of my internship is being able to sneak into the store every now and then at take a peek at the wonderful works on the racks.

I am particularly excited as
Communicating with Prisoners (1924), by Jack B. Yeats, has made it to the short-list of ten paintings nominated for the title of 'Ireland's Favourite Painting'. This work is from the Niland Collection, held in The Model gallery. It is the only regional painting that has made it to the shortlist.

Jack, brother of the poet William, is one of Ireland’s best loved painters of the twentieth-century and this painting is one of a number of iconic scenes he painted during the civil war. 

© Estate of Jack B Yeats. All rights reserved / DACS 2012. Photo © The Model, Sligo

Writing of the context of Jack Yeats' painting,
Communicating with Prisoners, Thomas MacGreevy declares ". . . they [Irish women] did everything except get executed. Many of them gave all they had, they suffered, they fought, they went to gaol, they hunger-struck." (Source)

Painted in 1924, Communicating with Prisoners depicts a group of seven women and one boy, whom are engaged in listening to shouts from the window of a of a Kilmainham jail bastion, from a ring of indistinct prisoners looking out at the group below. (More info on work here)

 The Irish suffrage movement was largely an urban, middle class one. Militant Irish suffragists were imprisoned in England and Ireland and some went on hunger strike (as referenced above). Former notable female prisoners include Grace Gifford and Countess Markievicz.

In 1914, Cumann na mBan was founded as an independent Irish female republican paramilitary organisation. MacGreevy elaborates: "There was a certain progressive, leftist strain in the Irish nationalist movement, which also had ties to Irish feminism and the suffragist movement. It is true that the participation of Irish women in political affairs remained for many years sporadic. Nevertheless, they continued to perform, even if only in limited numbers, similar roles to men."

Though not as acclaimed as their brothers but no less creatively gifted, Jack's sisters, Elizabeth and Lily, founded the Dun Emer Guild with their friend Evelyn Gleeson in 1902, in Dundrum, Co. Dublin. The name Dun Emer (Fort of Emer) was named for the Lady Emer, wife of the hero Cúchulainn, renowned in Irish folklore for her beauty and artistic skills. Jack's interest in Irish suffragettes who formed the theme of this painting, may have been inspired by his sisters and their contemporaries.

You can cast your vote for Ireland's Favourite Painting here

Masterpiece: Communicating with Prisoners
  CELT: Movements for Social and Political Reform, 1870-1914: Irish Suffragettes
JSTOR: A Political Prisoner in Kilmainham Jail: The Diary of Cecilia Saunders Gallagher
Cuala Press pressmark

And for the title that's in it, a favourite -

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