By Jim Rees
When it comes to talent one of the big questions is how much stems from nature and how much from nurture? Obviously, the talent must first exist within the person (nature), but without encouragement and support (nurture) it might lie dormant and never see the light of day.
The painter John Butler Yeats nurtured his five children to develop the gifts nature gave them and two of them – the oldest and the youngest of the brood – became giants in the related worlds of poetry and painting – William and Jack.
William usually gets the limelight, but today it’s Jack’s turn.
John Yeats was a native of County Down and his wife, Susan Pollexfen, was from Sligo. Although they were living in London at the time of Jack’s birth on 29 August 1871, Ireland was undoubtedly the spiritual home of the whole family.
When Jack was eight, he went to live with his maternal grandparents in Sligo town and he stayed there for the following nine years. His love of drawing was already evident and the Pollexfens were as encouraging of his talent as his parents were. Nothing escaped his eye or pencil.