Frederick Yates gained national recognition as a portrait and landscape painter. After meeting the Wilsons when they traveled to the Lake District in England, Yates made portraits of all five family members, including this pastel portrait of Ellen Axson Wilson. Her daughter Eleanor descirbed this portrait as the most perfect likeness of Ellen ever captured. Mrs. Wilson's cousin, Mrs. King, said that Woodrow Wilson was reading Sidney Lanier's poems while Yates painted this portrait. She attributed the soft expression in Mrs. Wilson's eyes to this reading as Ellen had a great love of poetry. This story may also explain the appearance of Sidney Lanier's name in the lower right of the portrait The Wilsons maintained a close friendship with Frederick Yates until his death in 1919. In fact, Yates attended Wilson's 1913 inauguration and was a guest at the White House.