Jack Yeats lived his life in the shadow of his elder brother, the poet, the famous W B. Yeats, who was to become Ireland’s greatest painter, was born in London in 1871, at Fitzroy Road, Primrose Hill, the fifth of John and Susan Pollexfen Yeats's six children. The family were dragged from Ireland to London when the wayward father abandoned the prospect of a lucrative career as a Dublin barrister in favour of painting among the London Pre-Raphaelites. The four surviving Yeats children (two died in infancy) spent their London years longing for Sligo, their mother's birthplace, where they spent the summer.
Only Jack got to live there full-time. Exiled, as the youngest children in large families often were, he spent his boyhood with his maternal grandparents. The dark, glowering beauty of the west of Ireland seeped into his soul and into the sketches and drawings he began at an early age.