Lot 20
  • 20

Jack Butler Yeats, R.H.A.

100,000 - 150,000 GBP
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  • Jack Butler Yeats, R.H.A.
  • signed l.l: JACK B/ YEATS
  • oil on canvas
  • 46 by 61cm.; 18 by 24in.


Sold by the artist to Leo Smith, August 1949
Dawson Gallery, Dublin
Taylor Gallery, Dublin
Vincent Ferguson, Dublin
Sale, Sotheby's London, 16 May 2002, lot 199
Private Collection


Hilary Pyle, Jack B. Yeats: A Catalogue Raisonné of the Oil Paintings, André Deutsch, London, 1992, p.808, no.891, illustrated;
T G Rosenthal and Hilary Pyle, The Art of Jack B. Yeats, André Deutsch, London, 1993, no.86, illustrated p.126.

Catalogue Note

Painted in 1948, The Child of the Sea contrasts the attitude of an innocent young child to that of the swarthy sailor, who, as companions at sea, are nevertheless polarised in their experience of the moment. While the old sailor hunches over folded arms, apparently lost in deep thought and oblivious to the ubiquity of the seascape, the child stares out open-mouthed in an attitude of wonder. Entirely absorbed by the sight and experience of the lively sea, the child's communication with the elements is emphasised by the near-total blending of his features with the salty surroundings. The tones of the sea are reflected in the china-white complexion of his skin, while the ruddy aspect of the old man tells of a detachment borne of a long-standing acquaintance with the ocean in all its guises.

The sea was an enduring source of inspiration for Yeats, and in his latter years it often became a metaphorical equation for life. In The Child of the Sea this equation is presented in categorical terms, with age alongside youth, indifference alongside wonder and quiet contemplation next to childlike exuberance.