Still Life – Leisure, 1936

Image: Madame Yevonde, Still Life – Leisure, 1936

Madame Yevonde (1893 − 1975) was the professional name of Yevonde Cumbers, who was born in Streatham, south London in 1893. The fascinating life and work of Madame Yevonde, from Suffragette to self-employed society photographer, were the subject of the 1998 British Council exhibition Madame Yevonde Be Original or Die.

Several bodies of Yevonde’s work can be viewed online as part of the Yevonde Portrait Archive including her haunting still lifes and a series of portraits of society ladies dressed in classical costume called ‘The Goddesses’. Wreathed in flowers, posing with taxidermy animals or encrusted with jewels and shells; these Andromedas, Persephones and Minervas participated in a consummate game of dress-up, temporarily inhabiting the multi-hued fantasy world of Madame Yevonde.