Jack Butler Yeats
The Riverside (Long Ago) - painted in 1922 and set twenty years before in the Edwardian era © estate of Jack B. Yeats. Painting photo credit: Ulster Museum

Jack Butler Yeats

The artist Jack Butler Yeats was born in London in 1871. Yeats was the youngest child of the painter John Yeats and brother of the poet W. B. Yeats.

As a child, he lived with maternal grandparents William and Elizabeth Pollexfen at Merville House and later at Charlemont House which overlooks Sligo harbour. The Pollexfens were wealthy ship owners.

Charlemont House

Ardmore House Sligo
Charlemont House in Sligo overlooking Sligo harbour

Known today as Markievicz House

Charlemont House Sligo
Markievicz House in Sligo, formerly known as Charlemont House.

Yeats developed a deep respect for the folk traditions and sea-faring heritage of the west of Ireland.

Yeats returned to live with his parents in London in the late 1880s and attended the Chiswick School of Art. There he met his future wife, fellow artist Mary Cottenham White (Cottie), the couple married in 1894. 

Jack Yeats and Cottie Yeats
Jack and Cottie Yeats on board the S.S. Mesaba, bound for New York, in March 1904. Credit: Photograph from the National Gallery of Ireland - Yeats Archive.

Many of Yeats’s paintings depict memories of his Sligo childhood. The painting called The Riverside (Long Ago) was painted in 1922 and depicted an area in Sligo Town known as The Riverside. It is located on the east side of the town at Abbeyquarter, on the banks of the Garavogue River, where boats could be hired to row up the lake and visit the many islands on Lough Gill.

The Riverside (Long Ago) - painted in 1922 and set twenty years before in the Edwardian era © estate of Jack B. Yeats. Painting photo credit: Ulster Museum

Jack and Cottie were married for over fifty years until Cottie’s death in 1947. Jack passed away ten years later in 1957. The couple are buried together at Mount Jerome Cemetery in Dublin.

Grave of Jack Butler Yeats and Mary Cottie Yeats at Mount Jerome Cemetery in Dublin.