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Property Losses Commission of Ireland file for artist Jack Butler Yeats, relating to work displayed on the premises of the publisher, Maunsel & Co., Middle Abbey Street, which burned down during the Rising.
Born in London in 1871, illustrator, artist, author and playwright Jack Butler Yeats (brother of the poet William) spent his childhood with his maternal grandparents in Sligo. In 1887 he rejoined his parents, the artist John Butler Yeats and his wife Susan Pollexfen, in London where he attended art school at Chiswick, South Kensington and Westminster. He quickly began a successful career as an illustrator of London magazines. He married fellow art student Mary Cottenham White and lived for a time in Devon where he continued to produce illustrations and cartoons and began to painted watercolour scenes of English country life. From 1899 he turned his attention to the landscape and peasantry of Ireland and created sympathetic representations based sketches of scenes witnessed on his visits to the west of Ireland, among them the archetypal 'The Man from Arranmore' which he made in 1905, the same year as a more overtly nationalist work entitled 'A Political Meeting'. Yeats sketched the body of Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa, (editor of 'The United Irishman' while in political exile in America) as it lay in state in Dublin’s City Hall in August 1915 and although he painted subjects relating to the War of Indepence and the Civil War, it was 1946 before the events of Easter Week would find their way into his work with the painting 'Men of Destiny'. In his final decades (he died in 1957) he was a prolific painter in an abstract expressionist style, often depicting the traveller or vagabond figures from his early watercolours and drawings, a trope that resonated with Republicans for the freedom and optimism that these figures represented.
In 1916 Yeats was living in Greystones, Co. Wicklow and was painting in oils as well as continuing his graphic design work. He submitted two claims to the Property Losses (Ireland) Committee. One was for a drawing entitled 'Mrs. Martin's Man', an illustration for St. John Ervine's novel of the same name that was lost when the premises of the publisher, Maunsel & Co., Middle Abbey Street, burned down. The second was for three paintings ('The Donkey Show', 'The Turning Point in the Tide' and 'The Runaway') which were on display in the Royal Hibernian Academy, Lower Abbey Street during Easter Week; the building and its contents - including a vast amount of contemporary artworks - was completely destroyed during the rebellion. Yeats valued the works at £45 7s and was most displeased to only receive £26.
The Property Losses (Ireland) Committee was formed on May 8, 1916 in an effort to compensate property owners in the city for ‘Damages caused during the Disturbances on the 24th April, 1916 and following days’. Its secretary Hugh Love had a compassionate approach to handling applications for compensation but his superiors, Irish Treasury Remembrancer Maurice Headlam, and Assistant Under-Secretary John Taylor, had the final say in dispensing funds. Payment amounts were arbitrary: awards were usually reduced, sometimes by up to half, others were disallowed for a variety of reasons that included consequential loss, complicity or on the basis of inadmissibility.
(Biographical information: Róisín Kennedy. 'Art and Architecture of Ireland, Volume V'.)