Madame Yevonde, day books

Scope and Content

The records relating to Madame Yevonde's photography business consist of 11 day books, these include details of both private sitters and commercial projects she worked on. A overview of day books held is below:

- Day Book January 1923 to February 1925, an index of sitters only remains for the letters Y and Z - it is believed the rest of the index became removed from the volume at an unknown date. The full records of sittings include date of sitting; name of sitter and their address; the number of the plate spanning from 4309 to 5449; details of the order, i.e. passport, complimentary sitting, re-sitting; details of order total; and remarks i.e. details of collection of proofs. At the bottom of each page is a running total of the money earnt for each year, which is refreshed at the beginning of the next year.

- Day Book February 1925 to January 1927, contains index of sitters arranged alphabetically at the front of the volume referencing page numbers of full entries of sittings. The full records of sittings include date of sitting; name of sitter and their address; the number of the plate spanning from 5450 to 6536; details of the order, i.e. passport, complimentary sitting, re-sitting; details of money paid; details of order total; and remarks i.e. details of collection of proofs. At the bottom of each page is a running total of the money earnt for each year, which is refreshed at the beginning of the next year.

- Day Book January 1927 to November 1928, contains index of sitters arranged alphabetically at the front of the volume referencing page numbers of full entries of sittings. The full records of sittings include date of sitting; name of sitter and their address; the number of the plate spanning from 6537 to 7623; details of the order, i.e. passport, complimentary sitting, re-sitting; details of money paid; details of order total; and remarks i.e. details of collection of proofs. At the bottom of each page is a running total of the money earnt for each year, which is refreshed at the beginning of the next year.

- Day Book November 1928 to September 1930, contains index of sitters arranged alphabetically at the front of the volume referencing page numbers of full entries of sittings - this includes businesses Yevonde took photographs of models for such as Debenhams. The full records of sittings include date of sitting; name of sitter and their address; the number of the plate spanning from 7624 to 8709; details of the order, i.e. passport, complimentary sitting, re-sitting; details of order total; and remarks i.e. details of collection of proofs. At the bottom of each page is a running total of the money earnt for each year, which is refreshed at the beginning of the next year.

- Day Book July 1941 to July 1944, contains index of sitters arranged alphabetically at the front of the volume referencing page numbers of full entries of sittings. The full records of sittings include date of sitting; name of sitter and their address; the number of the plate spanning from A 1 to 1086; details of the order, i.e. passport, complimentary sitting, re-sitting; details of money paid; details of order total; and remarks i.e. details of collection of proofs. At the bottom of each page is a running total of the money earnt for each year, which is refreshed at the beginning of the next year.

- Day Book July 1944 to March 1947, contains index of sitters arranged alphabetically at the front of the volume referencing page numbers of full entries of sittings. The full records of sittings include date of sitting; name of sitter and their address; the number of the plate spanning from 1087 to 2166; details of the order, i.e. passport, complimentary sitting, re-sitting; details of money paid; details of order total; and remarks i.e. details of collection of proofs. At the bottom of each page is a running total of the money earnt for each year, which is refreshed at the beginning of the next year.

- Day Book March 1947 to March 1951, contains index of sitters arranged alphabetically at the front of the volume referencing page numbers of full entries of sittings. The full records of sittings include date of sitting; name of sitter and their address; the number of the plate spanning from 2167 to 3252; details of the order, i.e. passport, complimentary sitting, re-sitting; details of money paid; details of order total; and remarks i.e. details of collection of proofs. At the bottom of each page is a running total of the money earnt for each year, which is refreshed at the beginning of the next year. The front inside cover has a typed note stuck in on Yevonde headed paper relating to Fashion Fees. The back inside page of the volume has a typed note stuck in relating to sittings of Miss Diana Henley and Mrs Henley.

- Day Book April 1951 to October 1955, contains index of sitters arranged alphabetically at the front of the volume referencing page numbers of full entries of sittings. The full records of sittings include date of sitting; name of sitter and their address; the number of the plate spanning from A 3253 to A 4338; details of the order, i.e. passport, complimentary sitting, re-sitting; details of money paid; details of order total; and remarks i.e. details of collection of proofs. At the bottom of each page is a running total of the money earnt for each year, which is refreshed at the beginning of the next year. The first six pages of records of sittings have been struck through, these cover the period October 1947 to April 1948.

- Day Book October 1955 to Sept 1959 contains index of sitters arranged alphabetically at the front of the volume referencing page numbers of full entries of sittings. The full records of sittings include date of sitting; name of sitter and their address; the number of the plate spanning from A 4339 to A 5609; details of the order, i.e. passport, complimentary sitting, re-sitting; details of money paid; details of order total; and remarks i.e. details of collection of proofs. At the bottom of each page is a running total of the money earnt for each year, which is refreshed at the beginning of the next year.

- Day Book October 1959 to April 1963 contains index of sitters arranged alphabetically at the front of the volume referencing page numbers of full entries of sittings. The full records of sittings include date of sitting; name of sitter and their address; the number of the plate spanning from A 5610 to A 6748; details of the order, i.e. passport, complimentary sitting, re-sitting; details of money paid; details of order total; and remarks i.e. details of collection of proofs. At the bottom of each page is a running total of the money earnt for each year, which is refreshed at the beginning of the next year.

- Day Book May 1963 to April 1971, contains index of sitters arranged alphabetically at the front of the volume referencing page numbers of full entries of sittings. The full records of sittings include date of sitting; name of sitter and their address; the number of the plate spanning from A 6749 to A 8342; details of the order, i.e. passport, complimentary sitting, re-sitting; details of money paid; details of order total; and remarks i.e. details of collection of proofs. At the bottom of each page is a running total of the money earnt for each year, which is refreshed at the beginning of the next year. The inside front page of the volume has a delivery note stuck to it regarding the return of equipment. The page adjacent to the start of the index of sitters contains details of lens numbers used.

Administrative / Biographical History

Madame Yevonde (1893-1975) was born Yevonde Philone Cumbers the daughter of Frederick Cumbers and Ethel Westerton. The family lived in Streatham Commom, London before moving to Bromley in 1899. Yevonde with her sister Verena were educated at a series of day schools and boarding schools, which culminated with them studying at the Sorbonne in Paris.

Whilst studying on the continent Yevonde joined the women's suffrage movement and she continued to promote female emancipation when she returned to Britain. Deciding to take up a profession she settled on photography after seeing an advertisement for a photographer's apprentice in 'The Suffragette'. Yevonde was accepted for three years tuition at Lallie Charles' Mayfair studio, six months before the end of her apprenticeship Yevonde left Charles' employ and in 1914 with a loan from her father she opened her own studio at 92 Victoria Street, London.

Launching her business with the name Madame Yevonde she at first imitated Lallie Charles but soon developed her own signature style. She used dramatic lighting against a dark background and printed on sepia-toned platinotype paper to give a more modelled effect. In 1916 she temporarily gave up her studio to work as a land girl. On returning to photography her portraits of celebrities began to appear regularly in society and fashion magazines. In 1922 she was commissioned to take the official engagement portrait of Lord Louis Mountbatten and Edwina Ashley.

In 1921 Yevonde became the first woman to address the congress of the Professional Photographers' Association, her given subject being 'Photographic portraiture from a woman's point of view'. Her lecture was published in the 'British Journal of Photography' and caused minor controversy when she claimed woman made better portraitists than men. In 1936 she lectured on photography as a profession for women at the second annual conference of the Business and Professional Women's Federation.

As well as commercial portrait work Yevonde also produced creative figure compositions, some appearing in leading photographic exhibitions. She also worked in the new field of advertising photography, creating a distinctive series of advertisements for Eno's Fruit Salts. The 1930s saw her begin to produce the photographs for which she is best known. In the early 1930s she started to work with Dr D. A. Spencer's Vivex colour process, building upon her earlier mastery in monochrome of costume, staging, and lighting effects to create intensely vibrant portraits and still lifes. In 1932 a show solely of her work was shown at the Albany Gallery, London – this was said to be the first to include colour portrait photographs.

In 1933 she moved to a new studio at 28 Berkeley Square in Mayfair, her 'Goddesses and Others' were exhibited there in 1935. This series received some contemporary recognition for her work in colour photography with 'The Times' identifying a number of images as 'among the best direct colour photographs we have ever seen.' In 1940 she was elected a fellow of the Royal Photographic Society for her work in colour photography.

Yevonde had married in 1920 the playwright and journalist Edgar Charles William Middleton, he died in April 1939. Later in 1939 the Vivex factory closed, bringing to an end her work in colour. Also in 1940 Yevonde published an autobiography 'In Camera'. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s she continued to photograph leading artists, actors and writers and to exhibit her work. In June 1973 the Royal Photographic Society mounted an exhibition celebrating her career. Madame Yevonde died on 22 December 1975 in London. A number of photographs by Madame Yevonde are held by the National Portrait Gallery.

This biographical description is largely based on Juliet Hacking, 'Middleton [née Cumbers], Yevonde Philone [known as Madame Yevonde]' Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, September 2004 [ https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/58929 , accessed 18 March 2019]

Access Information

Available to view by appointment in the Heinz Archive and Library Public Study Room, to make an appointment contact Archive Reception . Although records are generally available for public consultation, some information in them, such as personal data or information supplied to the Gallery in confidence, may be restricted.

Conditions Governing Use

Personal photography is permitted for research purposes only. Photocopying is not permitted.