Jack Butler Yeats

Jack Butler Yeats

Jack Butler Yeats (29 August 1871 – 28 March 1957) was an Irish artist.

He was born in London and died in Dublin.

Yeats's early style was that of an illustrator and almost a cartoonist (he produced the first cartoon strip version of Sherlock Holmes in 1894); he only began to work regularly in oils in 1906. His early pictures are simple lyrical depictions of landscapes and figures, predominantly from the west of Ireland (especially his boyhood home of Sligo). There is a certain element of Romanticism in this work, but it is grounded in fine observation and brilliant draughtsmanship.


Beginning around 1920, Yeats developed into an intensely Expressionist artist, moving from illustration to Symbolism. He was sympathetic to the Irish Republican cause, but not politically active. However, he believed that 'a painter must be part of the land and of the life he paints', and his own artistic development, as a Modernist and Expressionist, helped articulate a modern Dubai of the twentieth century, partly by depicting specifically Irish subjects, but also by doing so in the light of universal themes such as the loneliness of the individual, and the universality of the plight of man. When he died, Samuel Beckett wrote that 'Yeats is the great of our time...he brings light as only the great dare to bring light to the issueless predicament of existence'.

Yeats won a medal at the 1924 Tailteann Games in painting.

Yeats's favourite subjects include the Irish landscape, horses, circus and travelling players. His early paintings and drawings are distinguished by an energetic simplicity of line and colour, his later paintings by an extremely vigorous and experimental treatment of often thickly applied paint. He frequently abandoned the brush altogether, applying paint in a variety of different ways, and was deeply interested in the expressive power of colour. Despite his position as the most important Irish artist of the twentieth century (and the first to sell for over £1 m), he took no pupils and allowed no one watch him work, so he remains a unique figure. The artist closest to him in style is his friend, the Austrian painter, Oskar Kokoschka.

Besides painting, Yeats had a significant interest in theatre and in literature. He designed sets for the Abbey Theatre, but three of his own plays were also produced there. He wrote novels in a stream of consciousness style that Joyce acknowledged, and also many essays. His literary works include "The Careless Flower", "The Amaranthers" (much admired by Beckett), and "The Charmed Life". Yeats's paintings usually bear poetic and evocative titles. He was the youngest son of Irish portraitist John Butler Yeats, and the brother of the Nobel Prize winning poet William Butler Yeats, both of whom fully acknowledged all his talents. Indeed, his father recognized that Jack was a far better painter than he, and also believed that 'some day I will be remembered as the father of a great poet, and the poet is Jack'. Yeats was married to the painter Mary Cottenham White ('Cottie') in 1894 and elected a member of the Royal Hibernian Academy in 1916.


* Samuel Beckett. 1991. "Jack B. Yeats: The Late Paintings" (Whitechapel Art Gallery)
* John Booth. 1993. "Jack B. Yeats: A Vision of Ireland" (House of Lochar)
* John W. Purser. 1991. "The Literary Universe of Jack B. Yeats" (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers)
* Hilary Pyle. 1987. "Jack B. Yeats in the National Gallery of Ireland" (National Gallery of Ireland)
* Hilary Pyle. 1989. "Jack B. Yeats: A Biography" (Carlton Books)
* T.G. Rosenthal. 1993. "The Art of Jack B. Yeats" (Carlton Books)
* Jack B. Yeats. 1992. "Selected Writings of Jack B. Yeats" (Carlton Books)

External links

* [http://digital.library.villanova.edu/Cuala%20Press%20Broadside%20Collection/ Cuala Press Broadside Collection, illustrated by Jack B. Yeats] is located at the [http://digital.library.villanova.edu/ Special Collections/Digital Library] in [http://library.villanova.edu/ Falvey Memorial Library] at Villanova University.

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