The marriage of the portrait artist John Butler Yeats (1839-1922) and Susan Pollexfen (1841-1900) produced four creative children, each at the forefront of their respective fields. Although somewhat unreliable, John B. Yeats’s expressive and insightful portraits ensured commissions, and his work is to be found in private houses across Ireland, England, and America.
William Butler Yeats (1865-1939), the eldest child of John B. Yeats attended the Metropolitan School of Art in Dublin from 1884-1886, at the insistence of his father. Few examples of his artwork, such as Head of a Boy, 1887 (NGI.3018) survive, though artistic allusions inform much of his later poetry.
In 1902 Susan Mary (Lily) Yeats (1866-1948) and Elizabeth Corbet (Lolly) Yeats (1868-1940), along with Evelyn Gleeson, founded an arts and crafts co-operative for women called the Dun Emer Guild in Dundrum, Dublin. In 1908 the Yeats sisters parted company with Gleeson to found their own embroidery and printing workshops at Churchtown, Dublin.
Having developed a career as a magazine illustrator, Jack B. Yeats (1871-1957) shifted his focus to watercolour painting from 1897. Life in the west of Ireland became the central theme of his work from 1899-1924, with a move from watercolour to oil after 1910. In his later works, Yeats moved dramatically away from his earlier figurative style towards an intense Expressionism and Symbolism.
Anne Yeats (1919-2001), daughter of William Butler Yeats, trained at the Royal Hibernian Academy from 1932-1936. Anne was appointed assistant stage designer to the Abbey Theatre in 1935, eventually becoming chief designer. During the 1940s Anne returned to painting and participated in the first Irish Exhibition of Living Art in 1943.