© Estate of Jack B Yeats. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2013
 
Jack B. Yeats, Irish, 1871-1957
Title: The Liffey Swim
Date: 1923
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions:
61 x 91 cm
Signed: lower left: Jack B. Yeats
Credit Line: Presented, Trustees of the Haverty Trust, 1931
Object Number: NGI.941
DescriptionIn The Liffey Swim Yeats captures the atmosphere and thrill of an event that has been part of Dublin’s annual sporting calendar since 1920. His depiction of the occasion also represents a return to the sporting themes that had inspired much of his early work, but which he had abandoned for a time to concentrate on quieter, less dramatic subjects during the early 1920s.
Thirty-four competitors took part in the Liffey Swim in 1923, which started at a Guinness barge at Victoria Quay and finished a mile and a half down river.In this celebratory painting, Yeats invites his audience to engage with the event by placing them among the spectators, who lean forward to catch a glimpse of the swimmers as they surge towards the finish line. By distorting the perspective, Yeats also allows the picture to encompass the occasion in its entirety. The composition is divided diagonally into two sections, one showing the action in the water, the other the activity on the quay. The character in the brown fedora may be the artist himself, and the woman wearing the elaborate yellow hat his wife Cottie. The Liffey Swim marked Yeats’s growing interest in Expressionism and an abandonment of his familiar use of strong line and flat colour in favour of fluid brushwork and a charged palette. Yeats was awarded a silver medal for his portrayal of this unique sporting event at the 1924 Olympic Arts Competition in Paris.

March 2016



ProvenancePurchased from the artist by the Trustees of the Haverty Bequest, December 1930; presented, Trustees of the Haverty Bequest, 1931
Exhibition HistoryExposition, Olympic Games, Paris, June 1924

Royal Hibernian Academy, Dublin, 1925

Paintings of Irish Life, Tooth, London, 12 March - 4 April 1925

Autumn Exhibition, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, Autumn 1926

Contemporary Art of 79 Countries, World Fair, International Business Machine Corporation, San Francisco, 1939

National Loan Exhibition, National College of Art, Dublin, June - July 1945

Loan Exhibition, Municipal Gallery, Waterford, 26 June - 10 July 1965

Jack B. Yeats: A Centenary Exhibition, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, September - December 1971; Belfast, January - February 1972; Cultural Centre, New York, April - June 1972

Aspects of Irish Art, a Loan Exhibition; Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts, Columbus, Ohio, 27 January - 3 March 1974; Toledo Museum of Arts, Toledo, Ohio, 17 March - 14 April 1974; St Louis Art Museum, St Louis, Missouri, 3 May - 9 June 1974

Jack B. Yeats in the National Gallery of Ireland, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, 26 March - 20 April 1986

Yeats at the Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery of Modern Art, Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery of Modern Art, Dublin, 26 June - 15 Ocotber, 1988

Images in Yeats, Centre de Congres, Monaco, 11-16 June 1990; National Gallery of Ireland, 1990

Jack B. Yeats: The Outsider, The Model, Sligo, 5 February - 12 June 2011

Lines of Vision. Irish Writers at the National Gallery of Ireland, 8 October 2014 —12 April 2015
Label TextIn this painting, Yeats captures the atmosphere and thrill of an event that has been part of Dublin’s annual sporting calendar since 1920. His depiction of the occasion also represents a return to the sporting themes that had inspired much of his early work. He invites his audience to engage with the event by placing them among the spectators, who lean forward to catch a glimpse of the swimmers as they surge towards the finish line. The painting marked Yeats’s growing interest in Expressionism and his adoption of fluid brushwork and a charged palette.