An exhibition of western worlds

Yeats and the West logo

A major exhibition celebrating the western cultural revolutions of W.B.Yeats opens this June at NUI Galway. The Moore Institute and the Hardiman Library at NUI Galway presents Yeats & the West, an exhibition exploring Yeats’s life, work, and legacy, and his deep connections to the west.

Yeats & the West reflects W.B. Yeats’s attention to life, love, and landscape in Galway, Sligo, and beyond. The exhibition details the many artistic collaborations that centred on Coole Park and Thoor Ballylee between artists inspired by the western world, and goes as far as the American west tracking the fortunes of western artists.

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Yeats & the West follows the formation of the Abbey Theatre in Galway, and Yeats’s work with J.M. Synge, George Moore and Edward Martyn, using exclusive materials from NUI Galway’s Lady Gregory Collection, the Abbey Digital Archive, and the Lyric Theatre Belfast. It follows his foundation of Thoor Ballylee as a poetic symbol. It explores his obsession with local poet Antoine Ó Raifteirí, and highlights the gifted artists of Yeats’s own family, whose pioneering work is showcased in exquisite handprinted books and in embroidery from Loughrea’s St. Brendan’s Cathedral.

This interactive exhibition features original watercolour sketches and oils by W.B. Yeats’s brother, the celebrated artist Jack B. Yeats, works by Gerald Dillon and Harry Kernoff, priceless Cuala Press volumes and broadsides, a wealth of visual material from photographers from Fergus Bourke to Nicolas Fève, and rarely seen images and manuscripts from archive collections in NUI Galway and around the world. It follows Ireland’s dramatic political and cultural revolutions, and finds out how Hollywood and the American West began to answer back to these western dramas.

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Through rare books, original documents, and artworks, and using modern touchscreens, recorded sound, and exclusive film, visitors take a tour of Yeats’s commitment to history, tradition, and new art, all under western eyes. Talks and special events feature throughout the exhibition’s spectacular run from June to December 2015.

Visit Yeats & the West and rediscover western worlds and western revolutions. Click here for visiting details and here for upcoming events.

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Yeats & the West

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William Butler Yeats, poet, playwright, politician, and Nobel prize-winner for literature always looked west. Yeats & the West considers what the west meant to him, and what that means for us.

For W.B. Yeats the west of Ireland was foundational. Sligo was his family home, and Galway was where he brought his own family. Significant events of his life were played out there; collaborations that changed his work were formed there.

The west of Ireland was the wellspring of Yeats’s imagination. A landscape of islands, stones, and solitary trees was the landscape of his poetry. The culture of the west, its history, its traditions of craft, story, and song shaped his sense of a past worth reviving and a present worth honouring, and by doing so shaped modern Ireland.

This cultural revolution occurred under western eyes. Yeats & the West describes the many artistic collaborations that centred on Coole Park, Galway, and highlights the gifted artists of Yeats’s own family.

It is true that Yeats often looked eastwards for philosophy, for religion, and all the arts in their service. But he turned west when grounding them. Yeats’s restoration of Thoor Ballylee, Galway, must be seen alongside the construction of his own poetry.

In fact Yeats’s most distant travels were to North America. Yeats & the West follows him and the Abbey players as they cross the Atlantic and bring back with them a renewed idea of the breadth of the western world.

Through images, words, film, and sound, using rare material from the NUI Galway’s collections and from around the world, Yeats & the West tells anew an old story: a story of going west to find those places, real and imaginative, that change our sense of where and who we are.

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