William Frederick Yeames RA (1835-1918)

Amy Robsart

W. F. Yeames, son of the British Consul in South Russia, was much encouraged by his parents in his youthful artistic proclivities. At the age of six, to enthuse him further, the whole family went on a leisurely tour of Italy. Unluckily, in the second year of the excursion, Yeames's father died. The family settled in Dresden. Yeames junior was tutored in art at home, and in 1848 he moved to London where he studied under the sculptor Westmacott and also George Scharf. There followed a return journey to Italy, after which, in 1854, Yeames went back to England and had his first pictures exhibited at the RA. He became somewhat of an establishment figure, becoming ARA in 1866 and being elected RA in 1878, then Librarian at the Academy, and holding other offices such as Curator of the Painted Hall at Greenwich.

Yeames painted popular historical and genre pictures, with a lively sense of dramatic expression. His best known picture is And When Did You Last See Your Father? (Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool), showing Cromwellian soldiers questioning a captured Royalist boy. Another important picture is Amy Robsart (1877), purchased by the Chantrey Bequest the year before Yeames was elected an RA. An example of a rather later work by Yeames is Defendant and Counsel (1895), which is at Bristol.

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