Jack B. Yeats


Communicating with Prisoners, c. 1924

“Some day I will be remembered as the father of a great poet, and the poet is Jack.”

—John B. Yeats

Jack B. Yeats was born 29 August 1871 in London. He was the youngest of the five children of painter John B. Yeats, and brother to poet and Nobel Prize recipient William Butler Yeats.

Jack spent much of his childhood with his maternal grandparents in Sligo, Ireland, sketching the town’s surrounding countryside. After a return to London in 1887, he studied art and found work as an illustrator for magazines. In 1895, his water-colour “Strand Races, West of Ireland”  was accepted by the Royal Hibernian academy. Horses were a theme in many of Yeats’s works, along with boxing, travelling entertainers, and scenes from everyday life, both urban and pastoral. His painting “The Liffey Swim”  won a silver medal in the 1924 Olympics arts and culture category, making him the first Olympic medal winner of an Irish Free State.

Although not directly involved in politics, some of his works captured the ever-changing political and societal landscape of his time. One such painting is “The Funeral of Harry Boland” (1922). Another is Communicating with Prisoners, shown above. The painting depicts six women, stylishly dressed and accompanied by a young boy, outside the walls of Kilmainham Gaol, watching as female prisoners attempt to communicate with them, most likely shouting down requests for needed items or messages to be conveyed to their families. The billboard advertisements on the left, along with the modern dress of the women in the foreground, make for a sharp contrast with the women behind the walls of the imposing prison. It is a statement of a rapidly changing Ireland that in some ways, had stayed much the same.

Yeats’s paintings were in much demand during his life time, and that has changed little since his death in 1957. Water Lilies (oil on canvas 18×24 in., 1930) is due to go up for auction at Sotheby’s on 13 September of this year (£100,000-£150,000) while Sleep Sound (oil on canvas 18×24 in., 1955) previously owned by pop star David Bowie, will be auctioned by the same house on 11 Nov., starting at £180,000. For those of us in a more modest tax bracket, the National Gallery of Ireland houses many of Yeats’s more famous works, as well as the Yeats Archive (dedicated by Anne Yeats in 1996), which contains the artist’s sketchbooks, journals, personal memorabilia, and material relating to other members of the Yeats family.






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15 Responses to Jack B. Yeats

  1. These Yeats were an amazingly gifted family! Thanks for the background info. I was slightly aware that the poet Yeats was related to the artist Yeats, but that was all I knew. Thanks for posting this, Og.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. A welcome clarification

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Monochrome nightmares says:

    An excellent and very interesting read.
    Personally, my favourite artist is
    Edward Hopper.
    1882 – 1967

    Liked by 2 people

  4. skat says:

    I’ll have to see if I can find his other work online. I do like his style and vibrant use of colour. I didn’t know anything about him, prior to reading this. There’s a photo somewhere, of a 33 year old me, with my arm wrapped around the leg of a statue of the other Yeats, taken in Sligo on my honeymoon.
    Thanks for this piece.

    Liked by 1 person

    • oglach says:

      Thanks for reading. The statue of W.B. Yeats in Sligo town, known locally as “The Wank at the Bank” is no longer there. A drunk driver destroyed it several years ago. You should definitely check out some more of Jack Yeats’ work. Great stuff.


  5. inesephoto says:

    One of my favorite poets. Thank you for this post.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. poeturja says:

    Things I never learned in school…Unless I was sleeping during the lecture on Wm. B. Yeats, no teacher ever mentioned Jack. I’ve just had a good ol’ time on Google images, enjoying his paintings. Thanks for the post!

    Liked by 1 person

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