The diary contains entries of great colour and detail recording Jack's new London life, including his attendance at art school, sittings for his father John B. Yeats, acceptance of his sketches for the Vegetarian ("went with Willy's poem and my illustrations he took them"), trips and excursions to various London sights including Richmond Park, Olympia, the People's Palace, cattle shows ("Uncle George's Pony got 3rd prize"), the Lord Mayor's show, sports activities including badminton, tennis, riding, swimming and boating ("boated considerable rowed round to deadmans Point..."), his reading ("finished Allen Quartermain"), nights out at the theatre ("Went to Lyceum tonight with Lilly Lolly and ... it was Prince Karl (and bully it was too..."), his dreams, the "great excitement about the coming eclipse. Saying it makes people livelier to prove which he is very excited and lively himself..", and much else, providing a colourful and vivid portrait of his year, the illustrations including yachts (some in watercolour), gunslingers and cowboys with wagons ("street scene in Texas"), "Pucahontas on the war path", horses, hansom cabs, snooker players, caricatures (e.g. "A Vegetarian", "Mr Sikes"), men with dogs, fencing players, self- portraits and portraits of his brother W.B. (e.g. 27 May, "Willy and I did his ceiling") and much else.
As Hilary Pyle has noted it was the artist's habit from a young age to carry diaries around with him, sketching as he travelled, noting characters and incidents that interested him, and using the diaries/sketchbooks to practice his powers of observation and to train his memory. EARLY SKETCHES BY JACK YEATS REMAIN VERY SCARCE ON THE OPEN MARKET. For others from a similar period, see lots 138--145 from the collection of Grace Butler Yeats, sold in these rooms on 15 July 1999.
"The early years..are of inestimable importance in the formation of the mature Yeats...the early watercolours and drawings...should be regarded as seriously as the miniatures of Nathaniel Horne, or the early works of Turner, and the frescoes and cartoons of Goya, whom Yeats admired and no doubt admired from" (Hilary Pyle, Jack B. Yeats. A Catalogue Raisonné)
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