Compelling story of a genius Irish painter features in new TV documentary

A film about the life of Jack B.Yeats airs on RTÉ1 tomorrow, marking the 150th anniversary of the artist's birth
Compelling story of a genius Irish painter features in new TV documentary

WORK OF A GENIUS: Self Portrait 1920, copyright of the estate of Jack B. Yeats

A VISIONARY, an enigma – brother to the immortal poet, William – and a story that’s never been told before on screen...

International best-selling writer Colm Tóibín undertakes a revelatory and philosophical exploration – powerfully brought to life by narrator Pierce Brosnan – about the legacy of Jack B. Yeats in a landmark documentary.

Jack B Yeats: The Man who Painted Ireland on RTÉ1 on Thursday, October 20, at 10.15pm film falls on the 150th anniversary of the artist’s birth, as well as the War of Independence centenary.

The film brings together contributors from Ireland’s sphere of culture and academia – from historian Professor Roy Foster and Jack’s biographer Hilary Pyle to the comedian Dara O Briain and Colm Tóibín himself.

Having been in the making for more than two years, the project is the vision of its Sligo-born Director, Alex Verner, who makes his documentary film debut.

Verner brilliantly combines emotive storytelling with breathtaking cinematography, featuring the wild Irish landscapes which shaped Jack’s life, to create a truly cinematic ‘Yeatsian’ odyssey.

As well as chronicling the evolution of the artist, with a curation of his early sketches, watercolours and most significant oils, the film also exclusively features a milestone event that shaped the Irish art landscape.

At a landmark auction in 2019, Irish Revolutionary Ernie O’Malley’s stunning private collection of Yeats’ paintings was put up for sale by his son, Cormac.

In the documentary, Cormac emotionally reveals why he sold the works, which fetched record-breaking sums.

Tóibín is a huge fan of Yeats. In a paper, published in the Guardian in 2010, the novelist described him as his hero, adding that the long room in the National Gallery dedicated to the artist “is one of the sacred spaces in Dublin for me”.

Los Angeles-based Tóibín has written a narrative which the Irish Times said was as hauntingly beautiful as the paintings he describes, while also exploring parallels between Jack and his playwright brother William Butler Yeats, and their profound interest in transcendency.

Tóibin describes the artist as a solitary figure, and his paintings as “abandoning all caution like someone betting every penny in his pocket on a horse that lives in his dreams”.

Verner said Pierce Brosnan “described Colm’s words as “a work of art from the heart and lyrical soul”.

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