Art I LOVE – Jack Butler Yeats

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.

jack butler-yeats Head of a man self portrait

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.

jb yeats o connel bridge

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.

Jack B Yeats The Singing Horseman

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.

Death for Only One1937

He painted circus’s, horse racing, music Halls, rugged landscapes and Celtic mythology. 

High Spring Tide by Jack Butler Yeats

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.

Glory to the brave singer jack butler-yeats 1950

 A short biography of the artist here

Images from here and here and here, here and here


Don’t forget to read my BlogSpot interview with Artistatexit0  here

16 thoughts on “Art I LOVE – Jack Butler Yeats

  1. Interesting artist! I was caught by your statement about being a relevant artist. How is that determined? Surely, there are many better known artists who’s overall lasting influence on culture large or small is minimal. Does fame or notoriety make you relevant as an artist?

    1. If fame or notoriety make you relevant as an artist, then he is relevent as he is much loved, but he doesn’t tower like Bacon or Orpen.

      Nowadays personality/notoriety is almost synonomous with the art. produced. In other words the artists name itself can sell. I could say Art has become a label – but hasn’t it always been? Certain ‘brands’ sell.

      Lots of Irish artist here

  2. Thank-you, Linda. Yeat’s art is so inspiring! I absolutely sat and stared at “The Singing Haorseman”. I do believe you have introduced me to a new painting that can sit among my favorites. The energy and feeling in that is wonderful and I have nevere run across it before. Thank-you!

  3. This is great Leslie! I love this vigorous sort of painting myself – when I do paint I have the most fun with the palette knife than the brush:) There’s more artist’s that work in this painterly style, and I shall be putting them on soon:) I’m really glad you’re enjoying this!!

  4. “Death for only one” is something I will not forget and in some ways wish I had never seen. It is like a mirror for my mind and heart at certain times.
    I do love “the singing horseman” too.

    This is very nice ,what you are doing here.
    thank you

  5. No, Thank YOU Opoetoo for visiting and enjoying it:) all sorts of art here – art is life and life is art – and it’s here:) that singing horseman is really something else!

  6. dear lynda,

    i love this man’s art. i can feel the strong statement that he makes through his vigorous brushstrokes. the color palette confronts you to look more deeply and myriad of meanings are bursting with life.

    great post here.

  7. Yes, he certainly was an expressionist – in the true sense of the word Marvin! You have put your finger on how his works communicates and speaks to the viewer – it is indeed the life that bursts through those brushtrokes!

  8. It seems many of the readers are reacting to work that evokes an emotional response over a purely conceptual one. As for art labels, I think in the history of art, this need to label is actually fairly recent and has much to do with marketing. For most of art’s history, it was so intertwined with life that there wasn’t a need to give it a name. If possible (?) we should strive for that again.

  9. Yes, well observed Al, an emotive response is what we should be getting back to and it may be turning full circle which is a good thing I think.

    People should actually buy what they ‘like’ not what they think they ‘should’ actually ‘like’ it for itself, not because its de rigeuer. Art bought or even stolen because of monetary worth is valueing art as a commodity. This takes the art out of the context in which it was painted (I mean of course, work like Van Gogh, Picasso etc..though they meant to earn a crust with it…but that wasn’t the sole purpose) – Not perhaps art that is done to almost to order these days…… lot’s of these artists around. A bit like Court painters:)

    1. That is a beautiful painting Ja’he! I have that image on a post card. Yeats illustrated a small book of poems for Peter Corcoran (aka .John Hamilton Reynolds) The book was called ‘The Fancy’. I love the reds in particularly in this painting – wonderful 🙂

      1. it has a brilliant painting technique. I have it in an glossy irish magazine in the size over 2 pages. The original is 91 x 61 cm. I have the cut out print on the wall in my studio. The casual way of loose strokes exactly in the right place, right mix and colour forming an object is the mark of a genius. Yes , the red table cloth. And look at the face, his position …
        Again, it is my favourite
        Which poem does the painting relate to ? Is the book still available ?

  10. I really like Yeats work.It evokes some thoughts and feelings that are not often evoked in me.
    In to the far lands………

    1. I think the Butler Yeats brothers are interchangable and compliment each other. Jack Butler Yeats paintings are poetic and William Butler Yeats’s poetry are so romantic and artistic 🙂

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