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Jack B. Yeats (Jack Butler Yeats) Biography

(1871–1957), (Jack Butler Yeats), The Aran Islands, Wicklow, West Kerry and Connemara


Irish painter, illustrator, novelist, and playwright, born in London, the brother of W. B. Yeats; he was brought up in Sligo, where he developed the imaginative interest in Irish rural life which informs much of his graphic and literary work. After studying art in London he began his career as an illustrator; his illustrations for The Aran Islands (1907) and Wicklow, West Kerry and Connemara (1911) by J. M. Synge, with whom he made a walking tour of the West of Ireland, are among his best-known. He was over 50 years old when he began producing the works on which his reputation as a major European painter rests. He continued painting into his eighties, some of his finest canvases, among them ‘Glory’ and ‘Grief’, dating from his last years. The horse fairs, tinkers, landscapes, and villages of Sligo reflected in much of his painting are equally a staple of his prose. His novels include Sailing, Sailing Swiftly (1933), The Aramanthers (1936), The Charmed Life (1938), and The Careless Flower (1947); these and several others demonstrate his belief that ‘the artist assembles memories’ in consisting largely of localized reminiscences described in an eloquently celebratory style. Like his prose, his plays were mostly written between 1930 and 1945; some, including the unorthodox Harlequin's Positions and In Sand, were produced by the Abbey Theatre's experimental groups. Yeats's Collected Plays (1971) and Selected Writings (1991) are both edited by Robin Skelton. There is a biography by Hilary Pyle (1970).

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Woking Surrey to Æ