Jack Butler Yeats RHA
Whyte’s have had enormous success in selling numerous paintings, illustrations, drawings and prints as well as correspondence and limited edition illustrated publications by Jack B. Yeats for nearly two decades. There is an unyielding appetite for his work by both Irish collectors and from the international markets and high prices are achieved when his sought-after works appear at Whyte’s auctions. Yeats was born in London on 29 August 1871, son of the portrait painter and illustrator John Butler Yeats and brother to poet William Butler Yeats. He resided with his maternal grandparents – the Polloxfens - for much of his childhood at their home just outside of Sligo. At sixteen he returned to London and began to attend classes at South Kensington School of Art, and later attended Chiswick Art School, West London Art School and Westminster School of Art. Yeats started work as an illustrator in the late 1880s, providing drawings to The Vegetarian, the Daily Graphic, the Illustrated London News and many other publications in England, Ireland and America. Irish subject matter was a major component of the artist’s oeuvre even at this early stage in his career, and he returned to the country regularly from London. His Irish works were very well-received, and in 1900 he mounted an exhibition entitled ‘Sketches of Life in the West of Ireland and Elsewhere’ at the Leinster Hall, Dublin. The success of the event prompted him to exhibit a similar selection of works the following year at Walker’s Galleries, 9 Merrion Row, Dublin – “before crowds of visitors”. Further exhibitions of West of Ireland subjects followed and in 1912 he published a volume of forty drawings and paintings entitled Life in the West of Ireland. In 1910 Yeats moved from his home in Devon to reside at Red Ford House, Greystones, Co. Wicklow. He began to submit works to the RHA annual exhibition and was elected an academy member there in 1916. He also joined the United Arts Club and later served on the committee. Along with Paul Henry and Clare Marsh, Yeats was one of the first members of the Society of Dublin Painters, which was founded in 1920. In that same year Sir John Lavery appointed him as one of the first ten members of the newly-formed Belfast Art Society. The 1920s also marked a dramatic change in the artist’s style as he turned away from the making of prints to focus instead on painting. In 1924 The Liffey Swim (now in the collection of the National Gallery of Ireland) won Yeats a silver medal at the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris. Throughout the 1930s and 1940s Yeats participated in numerous exhibitions internationally, including the Chicago Century of Progress Exposition in 1933. In 1939 he was appointed governor of the National Gallery of Ireland. The 1940s were very productive years for the artist; he is thought to have painted more than one hundred pictures a year at this period. He also exhibited extensively in Ireland and overseas. At the end of the decade he retired to Portobello House nursing home where he died in March 1957. Exhibitions followed his death in numerous venues throughout Ireland. In 1999 the Yeats Museum, a permanent collection of works by the artist, opened in the National Gallery of Ireland. His works can be found in many prominent institutions, including the Musee d’Art Moderne, Paris and the Museum of Art, Washington DC.