Portrait of Susan Mary (Lily) Yeats as a child
John Butler Yeats (1839 – 1922)
ArtistJohn Butler Yeats
TitlePortrait of Susan Mary (Lily) Yeats as a child
Dimensions19.5 × 12cm
ProvenancePresented from the estate of Dr. Richard Best
Susan Mary Yeats (1866-1949) or Lily as she was called was the elder daughter of John Butler Yeats and the closest of his four children. Lily trained as an artist at the Metropolitan School of Art in Dublin and later worked as a textile artist with May Morris in London. She co-founded the Dun Emer Industries (1902) and the Cuala Industries (1908) with her sister Lolly, supervising the embroidery and textile work. Lily travelled with her father to New York in 1907 and was forced to leave him behind when he decided not to return to Ireland. Father and daughter corresponded regularly for the rest of his life and Lily’s letters were a source of amusement and comfort to the artist.
John B. Yeats drew Lily many times. During her mother’s prolonged illness and after her death in 1900, Lily was the main female figure in the Yeats household and was frequently used as a model by her father. The drawing is inscribed ‘Lily Yeats as a Child’ by Lily herself who later identified many of her father’s drawings (1). Lily sits patiently with her hands crossed and has a thoughtful, distant expression on her face. Yeats was greatly admired as a painter of children, perhaps, because as in this case, he understood and was able to represent them as individuals rather than the conventional stereotypes often found in Victorian art.
(1) H. Pyle, Drawings and Watercolours by John Butler Yeats and Jack B. Yeats in Sligo Municipal Art Collection, 2003, p.8.
Written by Roisin Kennedy