Yeats brothers lecture in Sligo

Nora Niland Lecture 2016

‘Horsemen for companions’: the Yeats brothers

Adrian Paterson, NUI Galway

7.30 Friday 10 June

The Model Sligo

Free event followed by wine and bites

8 Saint Colman

Dun Emer Industries: Banner for St Brendan’s Cathedral Loughrea (1903). Design by Jack B. Yeats, execution by Lily Yeats and workers of the Dun Emer.

‘Without contraries is no progression’, W.B. Yeats liked to repeat, following William Blake. Born to the most influential artistic family ever to come out of Ireland, the Yeats brothers, the poet W.B. and Jack B. the painter, are contrary characters and contrary artists, but share many things: a deep feeling for place, a delight in idiosyncracy, a gift for expression, and utter artistic seriousness. Thinking about them together sheds new light on both. Their lifelong connection survived disagreements political, artistic, familial, and temperamental, and produced a fascinating series of artistic collaborations from early days around kitchen table with their talented sisters, through a fascination with Irish stories and characters, to the later, magnificent series of Broadsides. It is sometimes forgotten that Jack B.Yeats was also a writer, while his brother started life as a visual artist, while the interest of both in theatre and in song never wavered. Alongside its A Broadside exhibition which features Jack B. Yeats’s prints and ballads, and a new display of the irreplaceable Niland Collection, The Model Sligo hosts the 2016 inaugural Nora Niland Lecture exploring their artistic connections and collaborations.

Dr Adrian Paterson is a Lecturer in English at the National University of Ireland, Galway. A graduate of Worcester College, Oxford, and Trinity College, Dublin, he is the author of the forthcoming Words for Music: W.B. Yeats and Musical Sense and the curator of Yeats & the West, an exhibition hosted by the James Hardiman Library at NUI Galway, The Model, Sligo, and shortly to open at Thoor Ballylee. A member of the steering group for Yeats2015, he has published widely on nineteenth and twentieth century art and literature with a particular interest in the artistic interactions of modernism and the fin-de-siècle.

About Nora Niland 

Inaugural Nora Niland Lecture 2016

For the first time Nora Niland will be publicly honoured at a special event which will take place during the Yeats Day celebrations this year.  Born in 1913 in the townland of Ballinastak near Tuam, Co Galway, Nora was a graduate of English and Irish literature from NUI Galway.

She moved to Sligo in 1945 where she took up the position of Sligo County Librarian. It was then that she began to draw greater attention to the links between Sligo and the influential Yeats family.  In 1959 Nora borrowed five paintings by Jack Butler Yeats to exhibit for the first Yeats Summer School. During the exhibition, Niland began to feel that the paintings should remain in Sligo and so she set about raising the £3,000 needed to purchase them in the hope of establishing a public art collection for the county. Two years later her determination paid off, and The Niland Collection was born.

Through her efforts Sligo Corporation acquired significant holdings of material relating to the Yeats family and it is now one of Ireland’s most substantial public art collections.  The Jack B. Yeats paintings were then housed, together with other Yeats family material and artworks, in a special room in Sligo County Library.

Paintings by the Yeats family feature prominently in the Niland collection with almost fifty works by Jack B. Yeats, nineteen portraits by his father John Butler Yeats, as well as works by Jack’s wife Mary Cottenham Yeats, and his sister Elizabeth Yeats.  The collection has an emphasis on the northwest of Ireland and features many artists who are linked to the area including Patrick Collins, Sean McSweeney, Patrick Hall and Nick Miller.mIt also features pieces of work by Norah McGuinness, Mary Swanzy, Sean Keating, Gerard Dillon, Paul Henry and Louis le Brocquy.

In 2002 a further 30 works of Irish art were generously lent on a long-term basis by the collector Jobst Graeve. The Niland Collection has now grown to over 300 works and is cared for by, and displayed at, The Model Niland Gallery on the Mall in Sligo.
Nora Niland never married and when she retired she returned to live in her native Ballinastack.  She died in 1988 and sadly failed to get to see her dreams of a gallery to house her pictures come to fruition.

To celebrate her contribution in creating this prestigious art collection for Sligo, The Inaugural Nora Niland Lecture in association with NUIG, will take place on Friday, June 10th at 7.30pm in the Model Niland Gallery.  It will be presented by Dr Adrian Paterson, a lecturer in English at NUI Galway and a member of the Yeats2015 committee.

He will be joined by renowned Jack B. Yeats scholar Dr Hilary Pyle at a special Yeats Salon from 9.30pm.

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