Portrait of an Artist (1856 - 1919)

Today Fred Yates is not a well known figure but in his own time he was a famous Portrait painter whose clients included the composer Sir Henry Wood, President Woodrow Wilson and JH Badley of Bedales School He painted about 2,000 portraits, now mainly to be found in private homes, scattered throughout the world. His landscape paintings were also much admired and articles appeared in The Studio magazine praising this modern romantic artist

In 1901, Fred Yates came to live at Rydal near Ambleside. Here among the mountains he found inspiration, friendship, laughter and tranquillity.

In the early 1870s, Fred Yates was working in an office in Basingstoke, Hampshire. For an aspiring artist this must have been dull and tedious work. Not surprisingly when his parents announced they were emigrating to America Fred decided to go with them.

Fred Yates in an original Autochrome photograph

On arrival in the United States the Yates family settled in California, the discovery of gold in January 1848 had led to a large number of people settling in the area. Some of those who came were artists and when unsuccessful with pick and shovel they returned to their brushes and palettes. By the time the Yates family arrived these people had created thriving artistic communities. 

Many of them had been trained in Europe and Fred would have heard discussions about the Impressionist and Barbizon painters of France. All this talk must have had a great influence on him because when he decided to study art he chose Paris as his training ground.

Upon arrival in Paris he stayed for two years studying under Bonnat, Lefebvre and Boulanger. Like any art student money was tight; food infrequent and the struggle to transform from student to artist was a long and arduous journey.

By the time Fred arrived back in the USA he had begun to develop his own distinctive style and quickly became a popular portrait painter He settled in San Francisco and threw himself into the life of artists there, joining the Bohemian Club and teaching at the Arts Students League It was while teaching an art class that Fred met Emily Powers Chapman Martin and a new chapter in his life began.


From notes for an the Exhibition at the Armitt Museum, Ambleside, November 2001 to February 2002. John Hodkinson, Hart Head Cottage, September, 2001.