Anne Yeats was born in Dublin,Ireland in 1919. Her father was William Butler Yeats, who was internationally known for his poetry. Her family was immersed in the arts. Her father’s brother, Jack Yeats, was an accomplished Irish artist, who illustrated materials for the Cuala Press. Anne Yeats also had two aunts, Elizabeth and Lily Yeats, sisters of W. B. Yeats who ran the Cuala Press, a business owned and operated by these two women. The Cuala Press printed Irish poetry and greeting cards with Irish sayings, among other crafty items. Elizabeth Yeats was trained in London at William Morris’ school, and she then trained Anne in brush drawing. Morris was then a leading figure in the Arts and Crafts Movement. Anne created the cover illustration for The Heavenly Foreigner by Denis Devlin which was published by the Dolmen Press. The Dolmen Press, also located in Dublin, was run by Liam and Jo Miller and published the work of Irish artists, writers and poets. ZSR Library holds a number of both Cuala Press and Dolmen Press items in our collections. So, Anne Yeats was swimming in art, both visual art and the written word.
Anne grew up in her father’s Anglo-Norman castle “Ballylee” in Galway County, Ireland. After restoration, this was a summer home for the Yeats family. Anne also spent time at the home of Lady Gregory, called Coole Park, located in County Galway. Anne attended art school and later became a set designer for The Abbey Theatre. The Abbey Theatre in Dublin was a popular place for many Irish playwrights, including the plays of Anne’s father, William Butler Yeats.
In my interview with Leslie MacWeeney (2020) she made the following comments about her work with Anne Yeats organizing the Yeats family papers:
“Anne (Yeats) you see, who had this kind of garden in a way, of all her famous family’s papers. They were always, she said to me, coming wanting to do research, and she wanted to have them organized, in good shape and numbered. So she’d know they weren’t putting them into their briefcases or whatever. I don’t think she actually said that to me, but she indicated it. She was being careful, being a good family member, keeping the records. So she was burdened by this. She knew that I had no money, so she offered me a job and that’s how I came to know her.
For me, she made a lot of concessions to make the job pleasanter, and also to achieve what she needed to achieve. I lived on Upper Mount Street. The Dolmen Press was on Upper Mount Street. Anne Yeats lived on Upper Mount Street. Anne Yeats is the daughter of W.B. Yeats, and I worked with Anne a lot. I lived just across the road, and I helped her catalog the family’s work. And she also was an artist, and a good artist by the way. She came on the board of the Graphic Studio, which I and another artist called Patrick Hickey founded in a basement, two basements down the street, from the Dolmen Press. And Anne came on the board. The Board of the Graphic Studio and the 3 or 4 other board members, Elizabeth Rivers was one, Anne Yeats, Liam (Miller) was on it of course, and myself, and there was one other person (Patrick Hickey).”
In 1967, Anne Yeats illustrated the cover of Denis Devlin’s The Heavenly Foreigner, published by The Dolmen Press. This illustration was a fine example of Anne’s quick and fresh style.