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Yeats & Son – John and Jack Butler Yeats Exhibition @ Wexford Arts Centre

October 18, 2015 - November 21, 2015

john b yeats

Wexford Arts Centre, Wexford County Council and Visit Wexford are delighted to present an exhibition featuring work from two of Ireland’s major artists, Jack and John Butler Yeats. This exceptional collection of work is presented in collaboration with The Model, home of The Niland Collection in Co. Sligo, and offers some of the finest examples of work from members of the Yeats family. The Niland Collection was named after Nora Niland, the County Librarian, who began collecting this critical body of work in the 1950’s. What began by Nora borrowing five works by Jack B. Yeats has since grown to include over 300 works of Irish art.

John Butler Yeats is widely known as an Irish portrait artist, illustrator and the father of poet William Butler Yeats and renowned artist Jack B. Yeats. Although he initially studied and practised law, he soon took up painting and studied at the Heatherley School of Fine Art, London. His sensitivity as a portrait artist and painter was greatly admired, and his portraits effectively convey the immediacy and personality of the sitter. This close attention to his subject is visible through his portraits of Jennie and Susan Mitchell, where Yeats’ portrayal of the women shares the same intimate quality found in sketches of his own family. Yeats was a popular painter of children, and as can be seen through sketches of his children, particularly his daughter Lily Yeats, his ability to represent personality and character ran against conventional stereotypes and troupes found in Victorian art of the time. Later in life, Yeats moved from Ireland to America where his exposure to modernist art in New York affected his later work. He remained there for the rest of his life until his death in 1922.

The strength and lasting appeal of Jack B. Yeats work lies in his intensely personal response to his subject matter. He began his career as an illustrator of broad sheets and journals, where he developed the style of bold and linear lines one can see in his works up to 1920. Yeats captured the essence of human nature, individuality, humour, sadness and grief. Many themes he sketched from life by observing people in their environments and surrounding landscapes. He is known as one of the most important Irish artists of his time.

Although he was not actively political, he painted some of the most important scenes of Irish history. Over the next forty years his subdued palette and tonal contrasts evolved through his use of vibrant colour, technique and application to an iconic style. This emotive way of working eventually saw him move beyond the use of linear lines in his work, which still maintained strong and directional slashes from the palette knife. As time progressed, his work became ever more abstract, experimental and deeply expressive but still looked to life and humanity as his source and inspiration.
Yeats & Son – John and Jack Butler Yeats will run in the upper and lower galleries of Wexford Arts Centre from Saturday 17th October to Saturday 21st November 2015. For further information on the artists or exhibition please contact Catherine Bowe, Visual Arts Manager on +353 (0)53 9123764 or email catherine@wexfordartscentre.ie.

Wexford Arts Centre acknowledges the support of the Arts Council of Ireland, Wexford County Council and Visit Wexford.

Gallery hours from 17th October to 1st November 2015:
Monday – Saturday: 10.00am – 5.00pm and Sunday: 10.00am – 4.30pm

Gallery hours from 2nd November to 21st November 2015:
Monday – Saturday: 10.00am – 5.00pm