One of the features of the Irish art market in 2014 was the absence from the sales of any notable painting by Jack Yeats. The highest price achieved for a Yeats in 2014 was the €155,000 paid for his Sleep Beside Falling Water at Adam’s in December. The last substantial price for a Yeats at auction in Ireland was the €1 million paid for his Fair Day, Mayo in the Adam’s September sale in 2011. Following the sale of Tony O’Reilly’s Castlemartin estate in Kildare, it had been thought that some of his art collection which includes Yeats’ wonderful My Beautiful, My Beautiful, might have come to the market. But it was not to be in 2014.
My Beautiful featured on the front cover of the 1993 Irish Arts Review Yearbook as part of a thirty-seven page Yeats family feature including extensive critiques by Hilary Pyle, Homan Potterton and Brian P Kennedy. Pyle vividly described the painting as a ‘large (102x153cm) and unforgettable depiction of human love and inspiration. Barely sketched on to the canvas, in two striking images Yeats tells the whole story of a poor Arab’s dilemma, forced to sell his steed, and then, moved by the loyalty of the special bond between them, refusing to part with the beast, accepting poverty and exile rather than betray the animal’s dumb devotion. The climax of the tale is depicted in the huge figure of the horse that surrounds the penitent suppliant looking down at him with the light of forgiveness in its eye.’
Yeats tells the whole story of a poor Arab’s dilemma, forced to sell his steed, and then, moved by the loyalty of the special bond between them, refusing to part with the beast, accepting poverty and exile rather than betray the animal’s dumb devotion
For many years, My Beautiful had been in the collection of the well-known industrialist and art collector Basil Goulding who died in 1982. O’Reilly subsequently acquired the painting from his widow Lady Valerie Goulding for a price believed to be IR£100,000 at the time. Like the Arab in the painting, it is understandable that Tony O’Reilly is perhaps reluctant to ‘part with the beast’ even though it must be worth well over a million in the market today. JM