By the time that Jack Yeats took up permanent residence in Ireland (1910), he was principally a painter in oils. James White points out in his introduction to Jack B. Yeats: Drawings and Paintings that Yeats was not influenced by the art movements of his lifetime, such as the Pre-Raphaelites, impressionism, and cubism. He stayed within the world he knew, Sligo being his greatest influence. Yeats was prominent enough as a painter internationally to be invited to the legendary Armory Show held in New York City in 1913. The art critic Alexander J. Finberg saw the Sligo/Irish influence in Yeats’ work: “The people Mr. Yeats is interested in are a rough, hard-bitten, unshaven, and generally disreputable lot of men. His broken-down actors practicing fencing, his Circus Dwarf… are subjects no other artist would have chosen to paint.” Whether Finberg meant his comment as criticism or praise, Jack Yeats would have agreed that the people and scenes he painted were genuine images from a place and time close to his heart.
'Men of Destiny'
Men of Destiny is a painting by Irish artist, Jack Butler Yeats, painted in 1946. An oil artwork on canvas, the modernist piece is noted for the strength and vibrancy of its colour palette and is considered to rank amongst Yeats' best work. The painting is on permanent display at the National Gallery of Ireland.
The painting depicts three fishermen securing a boat at Rosses Point in Sligo, in the west of Ireland. Painted in the period between the Easter Rising and the foundation of the Irish Republic, it has been suggested that the title could refer to the destiny of ordinary men, like the fishermen shown, to defend Irish freedom.
The phrase "Men of Destiny" has also been used as a translation of the Irish Fianna Fáil (more commonly "Soldiers of Destiny"), which was the Irish name for the Irish Volunteers (as well as featuring in the Irish national anthem and as the name of an Irish potlical party).
Men of Destiny was painted in 1946, thirty years after the 1916 Rising, a year after the end of the Second World War, and just two before the formal establishment of the Irish Republic. With this richly-coloured and nostalgic depiction of Sligo fisherman – fastening their boats – Yeats remembers men who had left their daily employment, at various times, to fight for freedom. Yeats has been typically economical in his description of the figures, and the masted boat in the background.
The painting is alive with exuberant colour, including royal blue, indigo, and various greens and heightened with vermillion, lemon yellow and white. The colours of the sky are echoed in the foam of the dark sea and amongst the more vibrant colours of the headland.