Self-Portrait, 1884.

William Frederick Yeames R.A. (1835-1918) was born on 18 December 1835 in Taganrog, Russia, the son of William Yeames, the British Consul, and his wife Eliza Mary Henley. He was educated at home. In 1842 the family travelled to Italy via Malta. The family visited Naples, Rome, Florence, Padua and Venice. After his father's death in Venice from typhoid fever in 1843, William was sent to Dresden in 1844 to begin his studies to become an artist where he studied under artists named Nieman and Franken.

After a change in his family's financial circumstances they moved to London in 1848. Yeames studied anatomy and composition from George Scharf where his fellow pupil was P. H. Calderon. Yeames later took lessons from F. S. Westmacott with whom he worked for some time. In 1852 Yeames travelled to Florence where he studied with Professors Enrico Pollastrini and Raphael Buonajuti of the Florence Academy. During his time in Florence he painted at the Life School of the Grand Ducal Academy. The following winter he went to Rome where he painted landscape studies and copied the Old Masters, including the Raphael frescoes in the Vatican. It was here he first met the architect Richard Norman Shaw who was also studying in Rome at that time. During the summer he travelled in Italy with fellow artist Arthur Murch. In 1857 Yeames moved back to Florence.

In 1859 he returned to London. He had a studio in Park Place and attended evening classes under John Phillip in company with Frederic Leighton, Holman Hunt, Augustus Egg, Marcus Stone and others. Yeames exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1859. He was made an Associate of that institution in 1866 and a full academician in 1878. He also exhibited at the British Institution, the Society of British Artists, the Dudley Gallery, and the Grosvenor Gallery.

On 18 August 1865 he married Anne Winfield, the daughter of Major James Winfield of the East India Company and the grandniece of Sir David Wilkie. The Yeames lived at Acomb Lodge in the Grove End Road in St. John's Wood. Yeames joined with P. H. Calderon, G. D. Leslie, H. S. Marks, J. Hodgson, D. W. Wynfield, and G. A. Storey to form the loose association of artists known as the "St John's Wood Clique". In 1866 Yeames contributed the figures of Torrigiano and Holbein to the series of mosaic portraits of artists at the South Kensington Museum. Yeames later became Librarian at the Royal Academy and Curator of the Painted Hall at Greenwich.

In 1894 he and his wife moved to 8 Campbell Road, Hanwell, near Ealing, on the outskirts of London. In 1905 he painted a mural for the Royal Exchange, London of The Foundation of St Paul's School, 1509. In 1912 because of declining health he retired to Brimley House in Higher Brimley Road in Teignmouth in South Devon. He died there on 3 May 1918 and was buried in the Old Teignmouth Cemetery.


Fenn, W. W. "Our Living Artists. William Frederick Yeames R.A." The Magazine of Art IV (1881): 196-99.

Meynell. Wilfred. "William Frederick Yeames R.A." The Modern School of Art. London: W.R Howell & Company, 1886, Vol. I, 206- 215.

Stephen Smith, Mary Helen. Art and Anecdote. Recollection of William Frederick Yeames, R.A. His Life and his Friends. London: Hutchinson & Co., 1927.

Created 1 September 2023