Yeats, Anne Butler (1919–2001), painter and stage designer, was born 26 February 1919 in Dublin, daughter and elder child of William Butler Yeats (qv), poet, and George Yeats (qv) (née Bertha Georgie Hyde Lees). Her first three years were spent between Ballylee, Co. Galway, and Oxford, until her family moved to 82 Merrion Square, Dublin, in 1922. In 1923 she started lessons in brush drawing from her aunt Elizabeth Corbet Yeats (qv), winning first prize in the RDS national competition for children under eight in 1925 and 1926. She attended St Margaret's Hall, 50 Mespil Road, and from January 1925 to 1928 Nightingale Hall off Morehampton Road, Dublin; suffering ill health as a child, she then went to the Pension Henriette, a boarding school in Villars-sur-Bex, Switzerland (1928–30). On her return to Dublin, she spent five terms boarding at Hillcourt School, Glenageary, then spent three years at the RHA schools under Maurice MacGonigal (qv), Dermod O'Brien (qv), and Henry Tisdall.
In 1936 at the age of 16 she was hired by the Abbey Theatre as assistant to Tanya Moiseiwitsch, and for four months in 1937 studied at the School of Theatrical Design with Paul Colin in Paris. At the Abbey she designed the sets and costumes for the revivals of her father's plays ‘The resurrection’ and ‘On Baile's strand’ and in 1938 the first production of ‘Purgatory’, the last of his plays that Yeats saw on the stage. She joined the school of acting conducted by Ria Mooney (qv) in the Peacock Theatre, where she designed costumes and sets and performed in productions of the Abbey Experimental Theatre in the Peacock. In 1939 she became head of design at the Abbey, continuing also to design and paint for the Experimental Theatre, including ‘Harlequin's positions’, the first play by her uncle Jack B. Yeats (qv) to receive a professional production. She left the Abbey in May 1941, and for the next four or five years designed for the Peacock Theatre, the Cork Opera House, and the Olympia and Gaiety Theatres; from 1945 to 1958 she also designed for the Lyric Theatre (founded by Austin Clarke (qv)), including her father's ‘The herne's egg’ and his last play, ‘The death of Cuchulain’. Attracted more and more to painting as a career, she studied briefly at the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art from 1941, and in 1945 took the Sarah Purser (qv) diploma in the history of European art, taught by Françoise Henry (qv) at UCD, then in 1947 paid her second visit to Paris to study modern painting. From 1952 to 1954 she attended classes with Nevill Johnson; from 1949 on she travelled widely with sketchbook in hand through Europe, later to India, to Egypt, and frequently to the USA and Canada. She was represented in the first Irish Exhibition of Living Art in 1943, serving for many years from 1947 as a committee member. She was a member of the Irish delegation to China in 1956 and the Irish trade delegation to New York and Washington in 1963.
In the 1950s she began to illustrate books, designing approximately forty book covers for Sairseal agus Dill over a twenty-five-year period, and also illustrations for books by Denis Devlin (qv), Thomas Kinsella, and Louis MacNeice (qv). She painted murals for the Unicorn restaurant and the Church of Ireland church, Mountjoy Square, and designed glass doors for the Red Bank restaurant in D'Olier St. She also taught privately at her first studio in 16 Exchequer St., at the Hall School, Monkstown, and at St Stephen's School for Boys, Harcourt St. Always seeking new forms of expression, she was a founder member of the Graphic Studio, where she worked on lithographs (1963–70).
In 1957 she moved to a second-floor studio-apartment at 39 Upper Mount St. After her mother's death (1968) she made her final move, to ‘Avalon’ in Dalkey, near her brother Michael B. Yeats. In 1969 she collaborated with him in reviving the Cuala Press and sharing the custodianship of the Yeats family papers and works, opening her home to researchers from around the world. An early member of Aosdána, in 1986 she closed the Cuala Press to have more time for painting, donating the Cuala archives and printing press to TCD. More experiments in style, subject, and materials followed; one of her last large commissions was in 1992, a luminous painting of a hawk for the foyer of the Samuel Beckett Theatre in TCD. A retrospective exhibition of her work was held in the RHA in 1995. In April 1996 she donated the archive of her uncle Jack B. Yeats to the NGI.
Her solo exhibitions included the Dublin Painters Gallery, Dublin (1946, 1948); Dawson Gallery, Dublin (1963, 1966); New Gallery, Belfast (1964, 1967); Town Hall, Sligo (1965); University of Toronto, Canada (1968); County Library and Museum, Sligo (n.d.); Municipal Gallery of Modern Art, Dublin (1971–2); University of Winnipeg, Canada (1975); City Hall, St John's, Newfoundland (1976); Sligo Art Gallery (1976, 1984, 1989); Caen, France (1979); Taylor Galleries, Dublin (1981, 1994); Dublin George Gallery (mini retrospective, 1990); and RHA Gallagher Gallery (retrospective, 1995). She participated in group exhibitions in the USA, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Monaco, and Scotland, along with the Irish Exhibition of Living Art and Taispeántas an Oireachtas. She died on 4 July 2001 and is buried in Shanganagh cemetery, south Dublin. A memorial exhibition of twenty paintings and drawings, including sketchbooks donated by Michael Yeats, was held at the NGI in June 2002.