MR. WILLIAM FREDERICK YEAMES, R.A.
The studio-portrait of William Frederick Yeames for Artists at Home was taken by Frank Dudman sometime around early September of 1883. Its vertical orientation accentuates the height of the interior, in which the artist, seated on a simple wooden chair before a full-length easel, looks small and fragile, his bushy blond beard framing, rather than disguising, his delicate features. Yeames plants his feet firmly on either side of the chair legs, and turns his head to look through his spectacles at the photographer (or the viewer), as if an unwelcome guest has just interrupted him at work. The oil painting on the easel (Welcome as the Flowers in May) appears to be complete, and it has already been encased in a heavy gilded frame. Nevertheless, Yeames poses with the implements of his profession--a palette, a clutch of paintbrushes, and a mahl stick—in his left hand, while the brush in his right is apparently poised to add a finishing touch.
Dudman visited Yeames at Acomb Lodge, a little house in St. John’s Wood at No. 4 Grove End Road. He has chosen to capture just one corner of the studio, which is so dense with paintings and sketches that they must have been arranged especially for the photographer. The picture most clearly visible stands parallel to the artist’s easel--Tender Thoughts, showing a beautiful young woman, richly dressed with roses in her lap, resting dreamily on her elbow. Behind it a second easel turned slightly toward the viewer holds another portrait of a lady, also framed but partially obscured. Small pictures and oil sketches stand on the floor, propped against tables covered with oriental rugs, and line up on the chair rail below an antique tapestry. The shelves of a cabinet on the back wall are crowded with porcelain vases, plates, and china cups; a rosary hangs from the right edge. On the top of the cabinet, two small, marble busts of women flank an equestrian statuette, with a rider who bears a lance and looks like Don Quixote.
The artist’s easel is set, improbably, just inside the studio door, which seems to have a sheet of Japanese leather-paper attached to the upper panels. On the narrow wall space to its left hangs a line of little pictures, both framed and unframed, too distant and indistinct to decipher. The notable exception is the dark, square canvas placed high on the wall--a clearly recognizable portrait of Philip IV of Spain by Velázquez, presumably a copy from Yeames’s student days of the painting in the National Gallery. The chief curiosity in this artful interior is the hunting trophy—a moosehead—just above the door. It seems to meet the viewer’s gaze with the same blank yet intent expression worn by the artist himself.