Art I LOVE – Jack Butler Yeats
Jack (John) Butler Yeats (b. 1871 – 1957 (London) was the brother of the Irish poet William Butler Yeats whose poem ‘He wishes for the cloths of Heaven’ I featured the other day. Yeats started out as an illustrator usually depicting scenes of Ireland. His style had elements of Romanticism but in 1920 his style became more Expressionistic.
Yeats was educated in Sligo Ireland but studied art at the Westminster school of Art under Frederick Brown. He worked in watercolour until 1905 when he started using oils on a regularly. Sir Hugh Percy Lane who founded the Hugh Lane Art Gallery, Dublin commissioned Yeats to paint Distinguished Irish men. He was very much influenced by the French Impressionists Masters in Lane’s collection.
Though not involved politically in the Irish republic movement, he began to paint urban and rural Irish life in a range of more varied colours and swapped the brush at times for other mark making tools. His brushstrokes became swirling and free depicting vigour and freedom of expression.
1920 was a turning point for Yeats, he turned from illustration to symbolism in a much more Expressionistic style. Yeats believed that the painter must be part of the land and of the life he paints and this can be seen by his use of impasto and the vigorous swirling strokes that he used to paint Ireland and Celtic mythology.
He painted circus’s, horse racing, music Halls, rugged landscapes and Celtic mythology.
His painting became more nostalgic after his wife died in 1947. He won a silver medal in 1924 for painting at the Tailteann Games. I can’t believe that some critics don’t rate Jack Butler Yeats as being relevent to Irish painting! Luckily a retrospective of his paintings in 1971 revived his art and reputation. He died in Dublin 1957. He is an important artist in Irish Art’s history.
A short biography of the artist here