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Pencil Portrait of W.B. Yeats.

Stock Code 110939

October 1901.

Original price $16,244.00 - Original price $16,244.00
Original price $0.00
$16,244.00 - $16,244.00
Current price $16,244.00
A fine pencil portrait of a young W.B. Yeats by the artist Pamela Colman Smith, dated October 1901 and signed with her characteristic cipher.

Already with two published collections of Jamaican folk stories and four years of study at the Pratt Art Institute under her belt, the young Pamela Colman Smith could not be accused of lacking in motivation. Some of her earliest published artwork appears in Bram Stoker's souvenir volume for the Lyceum Theatre company's tour of North America in 1899, and it was to Henry Irving and Stoker that she hopefully presented her stage designs when she returned to England, the country of her birth, in 1900.

Although this precocious approach came to little, aside from a lasting friendship with Ellen Terry and her daughter Edith Craig, from whom perhaps she acquired the nickname 'Pixie', this did little to dampen her spirits. Colman Smith turned next to William Butler Yeats with her stage designs for a miniature theatre production of The Countess Cathleen, which she had previously performed in New York. 'The fact that she designed this play within two or three years of its first publication in 1895, and at least several months before its first performance in Dublin on 8 May, 1899, is an indication of her up-to-date reading, her experimentalism and her ready response to Yeats's poetry.' (Joan Coldwell, Pamela Colman Smith and the Yeats Family).

She described Yeats after their first meeting in March of 1901 as looking 'rather like a demon,' a 'rummy critter!' who appeared bored when asked to perform for 'ladies with ermine collars... who all told him how very much they liked his bloomin' poetry, which probably they had never read or heard of... then W.B. began to talk! folklore - songs, plays, Irish language, and lots more - reciting a sort of folk song which was splendid... it was fun and we all liked it very much!'.

Yeats for his part was delighted by her designs and immediately began imagining future productions, while Colman Smith drew two quick sketches of him. Pixie became close friends with the Yeats family, visiting them in Ireland for the first time in the autumn of 1901, where she recalled having 'had just a bully time! - with Lolly and Lilly and Jack Yeats and Willie!'. The present pencil sketch dated October 1901, showing W.B. Yeats in profile with his rimless spectacles and 'just sufficiently crooked bow tie', as Louis Macneice would later put it, may date from this time. It certainly resembles the description given by Pixie from her visit to Dublin in December of the same year, where Yeats was 'like an owl' who 'kind of chants in his talk - and looks through his glasses sort of kockeyed'.

Colman Smith later advertised for sale prints of 'A Portrait of W.B. Yeats, from a Drawing by Pamela Colman Smith' in the 9th issue of her publication The Green Sheaf, but it is not clear whether this was after the present pencil sketch. In any case, the drawing certainly was published, perhaps rather unexpectedly, in Yone Noguchi's memoir '13 Years in Britiain and America' (eibei no jusannen). Noguchi had visited Yeats in London, and was later to be a significant influence on his studies of Japanese Noh theatre. It is known that a portrait of Yeats once hung in his studio in Tokyo, but again it is not clear which.

Pencil portrait on paper, signed and dated by the artist; unframed, 215 x 165 mm.


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Pencil Portrait of W.B. Yeats.


Stock code: 110939



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