Jack Yeats (1871-1957) stands as a giant figure in Irish twentieth-century art. An isolated artist throughout his life, Yeats dominated solely through the talent, magic, and inventiveness of his painting. His vision and his standing, as well as many critical judgments during the forty years since his death, have provoked controversies which Bruce Arnold confronts in this major biography. The author tells the full story of the artist’s life and analyzes his prodigious output. This included not only some one thousand oil paintings and vast numbers of illustrations, comic cartoons, drawings, and watercolors but also seven novels and nine plays. An innately original man, Yeats eschewed all movements, took no pupils, taught only by example. Yet he exerted a fundamental and fascinating influence on Irish culture during his long and diverse life.
Based on extensive research in primary sources, this generously illustrated book describes the life of Jack Yeats, son of the portrait painter John Butler Yeats and younger brother of the poet William Butler Yeats. Born in London, Jack spent his formative years in his grandparents’ home in Ireland. His first show was held in England, but the young artist was inexorably drawn to Ireland where he created in drawings and paintings an Irish spirit and language that increasingly captured and glorified the heroism, mystery, myths, and legends of the Irish people. This book explores Yeats’s friendships with John Masefield, John Millington Synge, Samuel Beckett, and others; his self-identification with his chosen country; and his struggle against indifference and mockery. It provides a compelling portrait of the complex and enigmatic artist whose reputation and artistic vision have become increasingly admired in the years since his death.
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