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William Frederick Yeames RA | Historical genre painter

William Frederick Yeames RA (1835-1918) was a British painter best known for his oil-on-canvas "And When Did You Last See Your Father?", which depicts the son of a Royalist being questioned by Parliamentarians during the English Civil War.
Yeames was born in Taganrog, Russia, the son of a British consul based in Russia.
After the death of his father in 1842, Yeames was sent to school in Dresden where he began studying painting.
After a change in the fortunes of his family, Yeames moved to London in 1848, where he learnt anatomy and composition from George Scharf and took art lessons from F. A. Westmacott.

In 1852 he journeyed to Florence where he studied with Enrico Pollastrini and Raphael Buonajuti.
During his time there he painted at the Life School at the Grand Ducal Academy, drawing from frescoes by Andrea del Sarto, Ghirlandaio and Gozzoli.

Continuing on to Rome, he painted landscape studies and copied Old Masters, including the frescoes of Raphael in the Vatican.
Returning to London in 1859, Yeames set up a studio in Park Place and, with Philip Hermogenes Calderon, Frederick Goodall and George Adolphus Storey, formed the loose association of artists known as the St John's Wood Clique.

The group concentrated on subjects of a historical nature and narrative paintings in which the story was revealed by close study of the actions and expressions of the subjects.
In Yeames's work, this technique evolved into the genre known as the problem picture, in which the narrative of the image creates an unresolved dilemma or paradox for the viewer.
In 1905, he painted a mural for the Royal Exchange, London The Foundation of St Paul’s School, 1509.
Yeames married on 18 August 1865 Anne Winfield, daughter of Major James Stainbank Winfield of the East India Company, and sister of the photographer David Wilkie Wynfield.

While their work was popular with the public, the St John's Wood Clique found it difficult to get their work displayed at prestigious galleries and the Royal Academy of Arts, because it never received critical acclaim.

Yeames managed to overcome this problem and from 1859 exhibited at the Royal Academy and was made an Associate (ARA) in 1866.
Unlike other artist circles of the time, the St John's Wood Clique did not lead a bohemian lifestyle; Yeames took holidays at Hever Castle and lived comfortably in London.

He and Goodall specialized in Tudor and Stuart subjects, but did not always portray the events they depicted with historical accuracy - instead using them as inspiration.
He died in Teignmouth, Devon on 3 May 1918.
In 2000, a blue plaque commemorating Yeames was installed at his former home, 8 Campbell Road, Hanwell, London, where he lived from 1894 until 1912.

William Frederick Yeames | And when did you last see your father? 1878 | Walker Art Gallery

This painting of a fictional event from the English Civil War (1642-1646) is perhaps the most popular work in the Walker Art Gallery.
It shows a Royalist house under occupation by Parliamentarians. The young boy is being interrogated as to the whereabouts of the master of the house.
Behind him, a soldier gently holds the boy's crying sister.

To the left can be seen the children's mother, her fear and anxiety at the boy's possible answer written in her face.
To the Victorians, children were often seen as ideals of truth and honesty.
The suspense in this work comes from the dilemma the boy now finds himself in: to tell the truth and possibly endanger his father, or lie and maybe save him.
Yeames was inspired to paint this scene by the innocent and candid nature of his nephew who lived with him.
The boy also acted as a model for the painting.

The work received favourable reviews when first exhibited and its fame and popularity continued to grow from then on.
It has been widely reproduced, often in history textbooks, as well as being the subject of a popular song in the 1890s, numerous political cartoons and even a waxwork tableau at Madame Tussaud's in London. | Source: © National Museums Liverpool

The painting is at the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, having been bought in 1878, just a year after the gallery opened in 1877.

William Frederick Yeames | And when did you last see your father? 1878 | Walker Art Gallery

"E quando hai visto per l'ultima volta tuo padre?" - dipinto di un evento immaginario della guerra civile inglese (1642-1646) è forse l'opera più popolare nella Walker Art Gallery.
Mostra una casa reale occupata dai parlamentari. Il ragazzo viene interrogato per sapere dove si trova il padrone di casa.
Dietro di lui, un soldato tiene gentilmente la sorella piangente del ragazzo. A sinistra si vede la madre dei bambini, la paura e l'ansia per la possibile risposta del ragazzo scritte sul suo viso.

Per i vittoriani, i bambini erano spesso visti come ideali di verità e onestà.
La suspense in questo lavoro deriva dal dilemma in cui si trova ora il ragazzo: dire la verità e possibilmente mettere in pericolo suo padre, oppure mentire e forse salvarlo.
Yeames è stato ispirato a dipingere questa scena dalla natura innocente e candida di suo nipote che viveva con lui.

Il ragazzo ha anche fatto da modello per il dipinto.
L'opera ha ricevuto recensioni favorevoli quando è stata esposta per la prima volta e da quel momento in poi la sua fama e popolarità hanno continuato a crescere.
È stato ampiamente riprodotto, spesso nei libri di testo di storia, oltre ad essere oggetto di una canzone popolare negli anni '90 dell'Ottocento, di numerose vignette politiche e persino di un quadro di cera al Madame Tussaud di Londra. | Fonte: © National Museums Liverpool

Il dipinto si trova alla Walker Art Gallery di Liverpool, essendo stato acquistato nel 1878, appena un anno dopo l'apertura della galleria nel 1877.

Nato in Russia, William Frederick Yeames si trasferì a Londra nel 1848 dove studiò arte ed anatomia.
Trascorse diversi anni in Italia, studiando pittura a Firenze e Roma.
Tornò a Londra nel 1859 e fu membro fondatore della St John's Wood Clique, un gruppo informale che rappresentava un nuovo spirito nella pittura storica britanica.
Non erano né preraffaelliti né tradizionali nell'affiliazione, ma combinavano nel loro lavoro le caratteristiche di diversi tipi di pittura, inclusa la storia ed il genere.
La fama duratura di Yeames si basa quasi interamente su un dipinto, E quando hai visto per l'ultima volta tuo padre? Gli eventi delle guerre civili si concentrano nelle reazioni di un ragazzino che viene interrogato da un funzionario parlamentare. | Fonte: © National Portrait Gallery, London