Yeats, Susan Mary (1866-1949)

Susan Mary Yeats (1908), by John B. Yeats (1839-1922).. Susan Mary Yeats (1908), by John B. Yeats (1839-1922)..

Susan Mary ('Lily') Yeats (1866-1949) was a designer and embroiderer associated with the Celtic Revival movement of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. She was born in Enniscrone (County Sligo), and was the eldest daughter of the famous Irish portrait artist, John Butler Yeats and Susan Yeats (née Pollexfen).

Her siblings included John ("Jack") Butler Yeats (Olympic medallist and painter, 1871-1957), William Butler Yeats (the famous Irish poet, 1865-1939) and Elizabeth ('Lolly') Yeats (artist, book illustrator and maker, and co-founder of the Dun Emer Guild and the Dun Emer Industries, 1868-1940).

In 1883 Lily Yeats enrolled at the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art, but left when the family moved to London in 1886. There she became involved in the Arts and Crafts Movement and worked closely with May Morris, especially on a wide range of embroidery designs and making the actual objects. She worked with the Morris family between 1888 to 1894. In 1900, the Yeats returned to Dublin. Two years later, in 1902, Lily and her sister Elizabeth Yeats joined Evelyn Gleeson in co-found the Dun Emer Guild in Dundrum and later the Dun Emer Industries.

In 1903 Lily Yeats executed a large commission for ecclesiastical vestments and banners for the new cathedral at Loughrea (County Galway, Ireland). Many of these designs were produced by her brother Jack and his wife Cottie. At the end of 1907, Lily and her father went to exhibit Dun Emer Industries embroidery and printed items at the Irish Fair, in Madison Square Gardens, New York (USA). She returned to Ireland in June 1908 (her father remained in the USA).

Shortly afterwards Lily and Elizabeth Yeats parted with Evelyn Gleeson in order to found their own business, Cuala Industries. Lily again created an embroidery workshop, which mainly produced domestic items. She continued to work at Cuala Industries until 1931 when ill-health forced her to retire. At the same time the Cuala embroidery workshop (Baggot Street Lower, Dundrum) was closed.

Lily continued to produce embroidered objects. She died on 6 January 1949 and is buried with her sister Elizabeth in the graveyard of Saint Nahi’s Church, Dundrum. Some of her embroideries include “Apple Trees”, “Cornfield with Poppies”, “The Stone Wall.” These and other items by Lily Yeats are now in the National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin.

The Lily Yeats Embroidery Competition (2014) is named after her.

Digital sources:

Digital source of illustration (retrieved 9 July 2016).


Last modified on Tuesday, 08 November 2016 10:57