About to Write a Letter
Jack B. Yeats, About to Write a Letter © Estate of Jack B. Yeats, DACS London/IVARO Dublin, 2019. Photo © National Gallery of IrelandCredit

'About to Write a Letter' by Jack B. Yeats

91 x 61 cm
Oil on canvas
Purchased, 1964 (Shaw Fund)

Stop 9 on the First Fortnight Art Trail

Yeats’s early work was representational, betraying his experience as an illustrator. However, his later work shows the influence of Expressionism, a modernist movement which saw artists favouring subjective experience over objective reality, sometimes radically distorting realistic forms to evoke a powerful emotional effect. Yeats experienced tension and anxiety, particularly in the 1910s.

So low was Yeats’s morale at that time that his father, John, wrote a letter to him voicing his concern about his low spirits, and his fear that he may ‘have tumbled into some pits of black melancholy’. In light of Yeats’s struggles with mental health, and the Expressionist influence on his work, many of his paintings, including About to Write a Letter, can be read as expressions of his concerns and anxieties.

On display in Room 14, Milltown Wing, Level 1

About First Fortnight Festival

First Fortnight is a charity that challenges mental health prejudice through arts and cultural action. In January 2019, the National Gallery of Ireland is offering an education and engagement programme of events focusing on mindfulness and mental health. This Art Trail is part of the programme. See the full programme of First Fortnight events at the Gallery