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New Work On Irish Painter, Jack Yeats

"It was not easy to be Jack Butler Yeats. Beset with the dual burden of identity and fame, he wisely distanced himself from most of the Yeatses and proved more a Pollexfen (his mother's line) than a Yeats. In the second half of his career (circa 1920s-1950s), when he moved from commercial art to fine art, he proved more a European painter than an Irish one ..."

Published on 22 Feb. 2018

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Maureen E. Mulvihill, for the NY Yeats Society (2009)


"It was not easy to be Jack Butler Yeats. Beset with the dual burden of identity and fame, he wisely distanced himself from most of the Yeatses and proved more a Pollexfen (his mother's line) than a Yeats.

In the second half of his career (circa 1920s-1950s), when he moved from commercial art to fine art, he proved more a European painter than an Irish one. His bold use of colour and symbolism, and his abstracted renderings of sea, land, sky, and the human figure, were inspired by the thrilling new styles of the painterly avant-garde: mostly the European expressionists. Considering the arc of his evolution from B&W line drawing – hundreds of comic cartoons, portrait-sketches, broadsheet and magazine illustrations – to the serious oil canvases of his mature work, Jack Yeats's task was to move beyond the creative isolation of Irish (and British) art to a bolder aesthetic and technique. He found this on the easels of his foreign contemporaries.

In his final years, Jack Yeats produced a prodigious number of remarkable paintings: The Two Travelers (1942), River Mouth (1946), Men of Destiny (1946), Seek No Further II (1947), Glencar, Sligo (1949), Queen Maeve Walked Upon This Strand (1950), A Rose Among Many Waters (1952), and others. Many of the later canvases (some, ambitious large-scale works) are now judged the best of his vast corpus. It is only regrettable that his important transition from representational art to the more charged modernistic style of his final years occurred so late in his career."

"Painting 'the ginger of Life': A Laurel for Jack B. Yeats"

ILAB is happy to mention a recent multimedia essay by Maureen E. Mulvihill on the Irish painter Jack B. Yeats, the younger brother of the poet William B. Yeats. "Painting 'the ginger of Life': A Laurel for Jack B. Yeats" is a new approach which engages with text, image, and also sound. It may be viewed at the website of the WB Yeats Society of New York.

More articles by Maureen E. Mulvihill on www.ILAB.org

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