W.B. Yeats and Henry Moore

IMG_0609I have always loved this Henry Moore sculpture of W.B. Yeats. Yeats’ poems have beguiled me since I was in high school and over the years, I have set many of them to music. Likewise, Moore’s sculptures are enigmatic and lovely to me – a perfect pairing with Yeats. A few years ago, I visited the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City and saw a fabulous exhibit on the trajectory of Moore’s work and enjoyed the thirteen exquisite bronze sculptures that reside in the Nelson-Adkins Sculpture Museum.

History.com describes the artistic and cultural influences in Moore’s life –

“At London’s libraries and museums, he studied Egyptian, Etruscan, Pre-Columbian, Oceanic, and African sculpture, and he brought the vital spirit of this artwork into his early sculpture. This effort was often ridiculed by his instructors, and in his first year at the Royal College one of his teachers remarked, “This young man has been feeding on garbage.” He was also deeply influenced by the semi-abstract paintings of Paul Cezanne, such as the Large Bathers (1900-1905), which shows monumental reclining nudes integrated into an abstract landscape. The reclining human figure would become a central theme in Moore’s sculpture.”

Experiencing the Yeats figure perfectly situated in Stephen’s Green is a quiet joy – organic, intangible, nuanced.

There is a photo in the Irish Photo Archive, taken in 1967, at the unveiling of the Yeats statue for the W.B. Yeats Memorial by the then Taoiseach Jack Lynch in Stephen’s Green. The photo includes the Taoiseach, Henry Moore and Michael Scott, architect and member of the W.B. Yeats Memorial committee.

I have read about, but not yet visited, the National Library of Ireland’s Yeats Exhibition – I will try to do that before I leave Dublin this time (an invitation is required). The National Library of Ireland was established in 1877, but originally existed as the Library of the Royal Dublin Society (1731). The building on Kildare Street was opened in 1890 and includes a large, domed reading room. The Yeats family has donated most of the material in the exhibition, and the library holds the largest Yeats collection in existence. It’s overwhelming and wondrous. The library’s online exhibit is marvelous.

This would add another layer to my Yeats obsession – a further examination of his works and writings as a Nobel Prize winning poet, his uniquely Irish artistic legacy – and also his messy and interesting personal life (his ill-fated passion for Maud Gonne and his artistic parents and siblings), the artwork featured in his books and on their covers, and his strange connection to the Order of the Golden Dawn. I would especially appreciate Yeats’ reflections on the Easter Rising – and am looking forward to visiting Collins Barracks at the National Museum of Ireland with the students and attending the 1916 Exhibit (which touched me deeply, for the first time, as a Fulbright Scholar, eight years ago).

I also love the paintings of Yeats’ brother, Jack B. Yeats – at once nostalgic, romantic and expressionist. The youngest of the Yeats siblings, he was a close friend with both Samuel Beckett and J. M. Synge, and he illustrated two of Synge’s travel books – The Aran Islands and Travels in Wicklow, West Kerry and Connemara.

A few of will go together to the Irish Museum of Modern Art in the Royal Hospital Kilmainham in a few days. The formal gardens are beautiful and I’m really looking foreword to the new exhibit, Beverly Semmes: Big Silver and One Green Leaf.

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One thought on “W.B. Yeats and Henry Moore

  1. The Yeats exhibition is an absolute must and is one of the best so far. The fact that there’s no entrance fee can only help anyone return time after time. Please do check my blog Ireland, MS and Me where I’ve put up several blog posts about Yeats. I visited his grave two years ago and intend to go back this year.

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