FRED YATES (1922-2008)
Many of you will know that we had a very close relationship with Fred Yates and held several highly successful exhibitions of his work over the years.
Fred had spent around the last ten years in France, ending up in the commune of La Motte Chalançon in Drôme Provençale. He had decided that he wanted to spend the last years of his life in England and I met him in June 2008 at the Talbot Inn in Mells as he wanted me to see the house he intended to buy in Frome and to discuss his forthcoming exhibition with us in Stockbridge.
The agent took us to this very pleasant terraced house on the outskirts of Frome, which Fred had agreed to buy. It had been totally renovated by a builder and had a ready-made studio in the garden -- perfect.
Back into Frome, a walk with my dog Figgy beside the river and tea at the George where Fred was staying and it was time to say goodbye. I wished him a safe trip back to France the next day, don't overdo it at your age, Fred, and I'll see you in a week or so when you come back to sign the contract. He then told me to wait a minute as he had a present for me -- a little painting he'd done the day before. I said that it must be very wet and he retorted in that Fred way, with a grin, "Oh no, it's not a real painting, it's an acrylic!" It was of the river walk we had just done. I shall cherish it till the the day I die.
Fred never did get to live if Frome. He went back to France to get his affairs in order and put his properties there on the market. About a week later, he stepped off the train in London and had a massive heart attack from which he never regained consciousness.
In my opinion, and that of many others, Fred Yates was the leading British primitive painter of his generation. His work brings joy to his many and ever-growing band of devotees.
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