Gilbert Stuart (painter)|
American, 1755 - 1828
Catherine Brass Yates (Mrs. Richard Yates), 1793/1794
oil on canvas
overall: 76.2 x 63.5 cm (30 x 25 in.) framed: 99.1 x 85.7 cm (39 x 33 3/4 in.)
Andrew W. Mellon Collection
Object 1 of 5
This portrait of a New York businessman's wife is considered one of the finest characterizations produced by an American artist. Mrs. Yates sewed while she posed, leaving little doubt about her industriousness. As she turns to appraise the viewer, her skeptical gaze and tightly pressed lips also reveal her uncompromising rectitude.
British sitters had expected flattery, but Americans desired factual accuracy. Once in the United States, Stuart complained, "In England my efforts were compared with those of Van Dyck, Titian, and other great painters -- here they are compared with the works of the Almighty!" The Almighty had given Mrs. Yates a bony face, and that is precisely what Stuart had to portray.
Stuart employed the stiff, angular lines of her silhouette to communicate Mrs. Yates' capability and astuteness. Even though the image is stark, the paint surfaces demonstrate Stuart's virtuosity at its best. Reflections from the coral upholstery, for instance, dance onto her silk dress in rapidly dashed brushstrokes.
Mrs. Yates was the wife of the senior partner in the New York firm of Yates & Pollock, importers of East Indian and European goods. The National Gallery of Art's collection includes four other portraits of members of her family commissioned from Stuart at the same time: Richard Yates, her husband; Lawrence Reid Yates, her brother-in-law; Catherine Yates Pollock (Mrs. George Pollock), her daughter; and George Pollock, her son-in-law.
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