Yeats Archive

Jack B. Yeats 

The Yeats Archive consists of a prestigious collection of material donated to the National Gallery of Ireland by Anne Yeats in 1996 and several additional collections acquired since. These collections relate to Jack B. Yeats and members of his extended family. The Anne Yeats gift of Jack B. Yeats’s personal archive includes the artist's sketchbooks which cover over fifty years of his career, forming a diary of his activities and tracing stylistic changes in his work, a large number of books from Yeats’s own library, a collection of journals, theatre programmes, original manuscripts, photographs, postcards and letters, as well as general memorabilia such as the artist’s easel and smock. This collection also includes material relating to Mary Cottenham Yeats and an extensive collection of old ballads, ballad books and maps.  In addition, the Archive holds material pertaining to other members of the Yeats family including W.B. Yeats, John Butler Yeats, his sisters Susan Mary ('Lily') and Elizabeth ('Lolly'), niece Anne Yeats and cousin Ruth Pollexfen. The Cuala and Dun Emer Presses are also well represented. Below is more detailed information relating to just four aspects of Jack B. Yeats’s diverse and extensive archive collection. Pdf files of full descriptive lists of collections can be downloaded by clicking the links below. Further lists will be added as they become available.

Yeats Archive fonds level index   [PDF 166KB]

Anne Yeats gift  [PDF 1.5MB]

Eleanor de Bretteville Reid collection    [PDF 135KB] 

Anna Russell collection    [PDF 247KB]

Ruth Lane Poole collection   [PDF 177KB]

Graham collection   [PDF 124KB]

Lillias Mitchell collection   [PDF 125KB]

Roberts Richmond Figgis collection   [PDF 108KB]

Jack B. Yeats: miscellaneous letters   [PDF 109KB]

J.C. Miles collection   [PDF 151KB]

Material relating to W.B. Yeats [PDF 92KB]

The Archive is available to all members of the public by appointment.  Restrictions may apply to some collections.

OPENING HOURS Mon-Fri 10am-5pm    |    Tel: + 353 1 6325500    |    Email:

Jack B. Yeats, 'An island man', from John Millington Synge’s 'The Aran islands', 1907.

Works for Publication

During a career spanning seven decades, Jack B. Yeats produced a considerable body of work for publication. This includes black and white journalistic illustrations for magazines such as Ariel, Paddock life and Punch, illustrated periodicals such as The Broadsheet (1902-1903) and A Broadside (1908-1915), a volume of drawings and paintings entitled Life in the West of Ireland (1912), and illustrations for the works of several authors, including John Millington Synge. The image to the left is Yeats’s frontispiece illustration, 'An island man', for Synge’s The Aran Islands, published in 1907, and from a limited edition of 150 copies with hand coloured illustrations. In addition the artist published five illustrated works of children’s literature in the period 1901-1909, and seven novels and four theatre plays in the period 1930-1947. Further theatrical works were published posthumously.

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Jack B. Yeats, 'Baggot Street Bridge'. © Estate of Jack B Yeats. All rights reserved, DACS 2012

Original Artworks

This 1901 sketch of a tram crossing Baggot street bridge, Dublin, is from one of the 204 sketchbooks produced by Jack B. Yeats which are in the Yeats Archive. These span the period 1886-1953 and contain approximately 10,000 sketches. This body of work enables us to trace motifs and stylistic changes in Yeats’s work, in addition to forming a visual diary of the artist’s life, in particular for the period 1898-1910. Almost all of the sketchbooks are of a type that would fit easily in the artist’s pocket. Yeats uses a variety of media such as watercolour, ink and graphite until 1910, after which his use of mixed media gives way to a simpler approach, generally using only graphite. Yeats referred to these sketchbooks for both subject matter and composition throughout his career; paintings were regularly based on sketches of scenes witnessed by Yeats many years earlier.

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Letter from John Butler Yeats to his daughter in law Cottie


The Yeats Archive includes a significant number of letters, both written and received by Jack B. Yeats, from friends, family, and associates. Regular correspondents include the poet laureate John Masefield; American lawyer and patron of the arts John Quinn; Lady Augusta Gregory; and John B. Yeats who sends illustrated letters to both Jack and Cottie, including the one on the left, sent in 1918. Also present are letters from the writer Samuel Beckett; former Director of the National Gallery of Ireland, Thomas McGreevy; and the artist Oskar Kokoshka. This body of material is a fascinating and essential resource for research on Yeats.

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Detail from Leslie Daiken, 'Children’s games', 1949

Jack B. Yeats's library

The Yeats Archive includes over 400 volumes, chosen by Anne Yeats, from an original library of over 2000 books which belonged to her uncle Jack B. Yeats. Jack's personal library includes those works authored or illustrated by the artist: his children's books and miniature theatre, novels and plays, along with the works of others which he illustrated. In addition the library includes a large collection of literature, with works by John Millington Synge, George Moore, Lady Augusta Gregory, John Masefield, Mark Twain, W. B. Yeats, Shakespeare, and Samuel Beckett represented. Also included are a number of reference books relating to wine, ships, gardening, crafts, and magic, a collection of children’s books, an extensive collection of English and Irish ballads, and a collection of Irish and English ordnance survey maps. Surprisingly, there are few books relating to art.


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