10.25.2007

John Butler Yeats (1839-1922): Painter, Father and Personal Trainer to the Stars

Irish painter John Butler Yeats moved to New York in 1907 at the age of 69 and enjoyed what is sometimes referred to as a second childhood. He befriended the Ashcan painters, or the "Eight" - Robert Henri, Everett Shinn, George Luks, William Glackens, John Sloan, Ernest Lawson, Maurice Prendergast, and Arthur B. Davies, as well as other artists and literati. Yeats lived at 317 West 29th Street, not too far from John Sloan's apartment on West 23rd. When Sloan hurt his back, the spry Yeats insisted on taking him for a hardy walk:

September 22, 1910
"We first rode up town to 57th St. by subway train, then we walked along the Riverside Drive north from this point. A beautiful walk with the city crowding its way into the landscape just enough. New housing near the brow of the hills. The red brown purple blue Palisades across the river. Mr. Yeats kept me moving, the medicinal feature of the walk according to his theory being no dawdling to admire, look and walk and talk. I enjoyed it with him." -from John Sloan's New York Scene (NY: Harper & Row, 1965), pps. 458-459

J.B. Yeats' youngest son, Jack Butler Yeats (1871-1957), became the most successful Irish artist of his day. His eldest son, William Butler Yeats (1865-1939), studied at the Metropolitan School of Art in Dublin.

Seeing the City: Sloan's New York is on exhibit at the Delaware Art Museum. The museum is home to a vast quantity of Sloan materials, thanks to a bequest of Sloan's second wife, painter Helen Farr. The website for the exhibit is complete with walking trips and an interactive map, just the way I like it.

If interested, the John Butler Yeats Collection, comprised of the materials from the New York years, may be found at Princeton.

Image: Illustration by John Sloan, Caught in the Net by Emile Gaboriau. (New York: Scribner,1915) from the Internet Archive.

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