William Butler Yeats, by Alice Boughton, 1903

Colorization by Manos Athanasiadis

Colorization by Manos Athanasiadis

William Butler Yeats, 1903 (Alice Boughton / William Michael Murphy Collection?)

William Butler Yeats, 1903 (Alice Boughton / William Michael Murphy Collection?)

William Butler Yeats (1865–1939) was an Irish poet and one of the foremost figures of 20th-century literature.
He was born in Sandymount, Ireland and educated there and in London. Yeats published his first works in the Dublin University Review in 1885 while a student at Dublin’s Metropolitan School of Art. Following the publication of his poems, he soon abandoned art school for other pursuits.
After returning to London in the late 1880s, Yeats met writers Oscar Wilde, Lionel Johnson and George Bernard Shaw. He also became acquainted with Maud Gonne, a supporter of Irish independence. This revolutionary woman served as a muse for Yeats for years. He even proposed marriage to her several times, but she turned him down. Around this time, Yeats founded the Rhymers’ Club poetry group with Ernest Rhys. He also joined the Order of the Golden Dawn, an organization that explored topics related to the occult and mysticism. While he was fascinated with otherworldly elements, Yeats’s interest in Ireland, especially its folktales, fueled much of his output. Those topics feature in the first phase of his work, which lasted roughly until the turn of the 20th century. From 1900, Yeats’s poetry grew more physical and realistic. He largely renounced the transcendental beliefs of his youth, though he remained preoccupied with physical and spiritual masks, as well as with cyclical theories of life.
In addition to his poetry, Yeats devoted significant creative energy to writing plays. Yeats was a driving force behind the Irish Literary Revival and, along with Lady Gregory, Edward Martyn, and others, founded the Abbey Theatre, where he served as its chief during its early years.
Yeats married Georgie Hyde-Lees in 1917, and they soon had daughter Anne and son William Michael. Then he became a political figure in the new Irish Free State, serving as a senator for six years beginning in 1922.
In 1923, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature as the first Irishman so honoured for what the Nobel Committee described as “inspired poetry, which in a highly artistic form gives expression to the spirit of a whole nation”.
Yeats continued to write until his death. Some of his important later works include The Wild Swans at Coole (1917), The Tower (1928) and Words for Music Perhaps and Other Poems (1932). Yeats passed away on January 28, 1939, in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, France. He is remembered as one of the most significant modern poets of all time.
Alice Boughton (1866–1943) was an early 20th-century American photographer known for her photographs of many literary and theatrical figures of her time. She was a Fellow of Alfred Stieglitz’s Photo-Secession, a circle of highly creative and influential photographers whose artistic efforts succeeded in raising photography to a fine art form.
Boughton became one of the most distinguished portrait photographers of New York, although she did many landscapes in US and Europe. She produced studies of children, as well as female nudes in allegorical or natural settings. Among her more famous works are portraits of Eugene O’Neill, Albert Pinkham Ryder, George Arliss and Robert Louis Stevenson. Her works are in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the British National Portrait Gallery, the U.S. National Portrait Gallery, the George Eastman House and other important museums.
Sources / More to Read:
Wikipedia: W. B. Yeats
Biography.com: W. B. Yeats
Wikipedia: Alice Boughton


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