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Fred Yates

Fred Yates

The artist Fred Yates discovered Rydal when he was commissioned to paint Charlotte Mason in 1901. He decided to live there and subsequently painted many prominent Lake District residents.

Frederick, or Fred as he preferred to be known was born in Southampton in 1854. The family was then known as Keeping, but for reasons we do not know, his parents took the name of Yates on emigrating with three of their children to America in about 1881. At the age of 27 Fred gave up working in an office and committed himself to becoming a painter. He went to Paris for two periods of study under Lefebre and Boulanger and then M. Bonnart.

Back in the USA he painted portraits and landscapes and taught an art class in San Francisco. Here he met and married Mrs Emily Chapman Martin, a New Englander long separated from her first husband.

From about 1890 they made their home in England. Their only child, Mary was born in Chislehurst in 1891 and the whole family went back to the USA to see both sets of grandparents who were now living in California. From the West Coast the Yates moved on to Hawaii where Fred painted President Dole and then on to Japan and Shanghai.

In 1899 they returned to England and Fred accepted a commission to paint a portrait of the educational reformer Charlotte Mason. Miss Mason had made her home in Ambleside and Fred fell in love with the area and decided to move his family to the Lakes.

The family moved to Ambleside in 1902 and Fred was soon busy painting portraits of local people. One of the people Fred painted was Squire le Flemming who offered to build the Yates family a home. Fred and his daughter chose the location, at the top of a steep hill above Hart Head Farm and Rydal Mount.

It was a wonderful spot and the family adored their Lakeland home. Fred kept a studio in London but came home to Rydal whenever he could. During this period Fred painted the portraits of many famous and significant people including, Canon RawnsleyJ H Badley (founder of Bedales co-educational school), John Drinkwater, poet and President Woodrow Wilson.

Fred became great friends with Woodrow Wilson and attended his Presidential inauguration in 1913. At the end of the ceremony Woodrow Wilson asked Yates what he would like as a memento of the occasion and Fred asked for the large American flag on which he had his hand when he took the oath of office. The flag came back to Rydal and was hung out of the top window of the cottage on VE day and other special occasions.

The First World War was a difficult time for Yates. Many of his friends were killed and as one friend wrote, ‘his sensitive spirit battled with the mental and physical horrors of the war and it affected both his work and health.’ Fred died in 1919 but his beautiful sensitive pastels of Lake District landscapes and people continue to give great pleasure.