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Auction London

Sotheby's To Offer the Yeats Family Collection

Auction London

The sale also includes w.b.’s writing bureau, on which he would have written many of these letters to Olivia (est. £20,000–30,000 / €22,500–33,800). It was used regularly for his correspondence in later years, a period during which he both wrote some of his most memorable verse, and was newly engaged in Irish political affairs.
W.B. was, like the rest of the family, also a trained artist. The sale includes both an early sketchbook (which also contains very early poetic drafts) and two pastels of coole, the estate of Lady Gregory which Yeats described as ‘the most beautiful place in the world’ (est. £7,000–10,000 / € 7,900–11,300 and £8,000–12,000 / €9,000–13,500).

john butler yeats’ sketchbooks and final self-portrait
The sale will include the largest ever offering of works by John B. Yeats. He is best known for his drawings, of which over 85 are included in the sale along with 11 sketchbooks, depicting his family, the Irish countryside and celebrated contemporaries and friends, such as John O’Leary, Hugh Lane, Sarah Purser and Mary Walker (Máire NicShiubhlaigh). The paintings include his important final self-portrait, commissioned by the New York lawyer, collector and patron of the arts, John Quinn in 1911 (est. £30,000–50,000 / €33,800–56,500).
This self-portrait became somewhat of an obsession for the artist. Though work on the picture began in 1911, it would occupy Yeats for the rest of his life, until his death in 1922. “It fills my life. I have never an idle moment or idle thought. It is a long revel, just as satisfying to me as Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, and I think I have been at it almost as many years.” – John Butler Yeats

works by jack butler yeats
The Runaway Horse is the most valuable of the 35 artworks by Jack Yeats in the sale (est. £150,000–250,000 / €169,000–281,000). Painted in 1954, and one of his final works, the painting depicts a golden-haired child playing. Towards the end of his career, the theme of memory in his work became more enhanced – here the intoxicating impact of a youthful memory is conveyed not only though the artist’s choice of subject but also in the exuberant way in which he paints it. The Sunset Belongs to You (1951), showing a dramatic encounter between two anonymous figures, embodies a key theme in Yeats’s later work (est. £100,000–150,000 / €113,000–169,000). Transient meetings between travellers on the road fulfil an existential idea explored in the artist’s own novels and plays, and most notably in the plays of his friend, Samuel Beckett. The theatrical poses of the figures, with their bodies silhouetted against an expanse of sky, together with a dynamic application of paint, are evident of Yeats’s keen understanding of drama.

The extraordinary range of material in the sale produced by Jack encompasses original sets of broadside drawings, printed by Lolly and Lily’s Cuala Press, led by a group of four ink drawings (est. £15,000–20,000 / €16,900–22,500); his childhood sketchbook, aged 12, comprising numerous delightful drawings in pencil and pastel (est. £10,000–15,000 / €11,300–16,900); three of the artist’s scribbling diaries for the years 1888 and 1889, when he was a teenager during his second year in London, containing entries of great colour and detail recoding Jack’s new London life (each £8,000–12,000 / €9,000–13,500); a collection of early sketches and illustrations dating largely from the time when he was beginning to make a career for himself as a contributor to various publications (est. £7,000–10,000 / €7,900–11,300).


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  • Lot 181 Jack Butler Years, The Runaway Horse
    Lot 181 Jack Butler Years, The Runaway Horse
    Sotheby’s Auktionshaus
  • Lot 224 Jack Butler Yeats, The Sunset Belongs to Yo…,000-150,000)
    Lot 224 Jack Butler Yeats, The Sunset Belongs to Yo…,000-150,000)
    Sotheby’s Auktionshaus
  • Lot 141 J.B. Yeats, Portrait of Elizabeth Corbert Yeat…0,000-30,000)
    Lot 141 J.B. Yeats, Portrait of Elizabeth Corbert Yeat…0,000-30,000)
    Sotheby’s Auktionshaus
  • Lot 192 J.B. Yeats, Four ink drawings (est. £15,000-20,000 (iv)
    Lot 192 J.B. Yeats, Four ink drawings (est. £15,000-20,000 (iv)
    Sotheby’s Auktionshaus
  • Lot 65 Self-Portrait, New York (est. £30,000-50,000)
    Lot 65 Self-Portrait, New York (est. £30,000-50,000)
    Sotheby’s Auktionshaus
  • Lot 64 The Artist's Palette (est. £200-300)
    Lot 64 The Artist's Palette (est. £200-300)
    Sotheby’s Auktionshaus
  • Lot 83 Large Pair of Spiral Twist Alter-Sticks (est. £800-1,200)
    Lot 83 Large Pair of Spiral Twist Alter-Sticks (est. £800-1,200)
    Sotheby’s Auktionshaus