Jack Butler Yeats was six years younger than his brother William, and probably didn’t see much of him growing up, because when the family moved rather suddenly to London when he was six or seven, they left him with his grandmother in Sligo for the next eleven years. Apparently, it was a better place for a little boy to grow up. It doesn’t seem to have harmed young Jack, who loved Sligo and painted it until the very end of his life.
He came by his artistic talent naturally; his father had abandoned a career in the law to become a portrait painter–this was perhaps the one rare family in which deciding to become a poet probably sounded perfectly reasonable.
Yeats studied art in London, started out as an illustrator, working for a variety of publications in London and later Dublin presses. Here is a broadside from 1902:
After returning to Ireland in 1910, he devoted himself primarily to painting, and was inspired by the landscapes of Sligo throughout his life. The painting below, titled Returning from the Bathe, shows the seacoast near where he grew up.
And this is Two Travellers.There’s an entire gallery in the National Gallery in Dublin devoted to Yeats’ paintings. I like them a great deal, but I wonder whether W.B. did? They are hard to reconcile with the line about painting in “Under Ben Bulben”: “after that/ Confusion fell upon our thought.”