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I first met Fred in the spring of 2006. I was introduced to him in the little “salon du the” on the rue Lamartine in Bellac. I was born near to Fowey in Cornwall so we had alot to talk about. Later I gave him a lift to his little house in Rancon, such an interesting, peaceful place. We spent a few hours in each other’s company, a couple of weeks later he annouced that he was returning to La Drome and I saw him off on the bus to Limoges, the first stage. I did not see him again until the spring of 2008, the 27th april to be exact. He invited me to have a meal with him at the cafe by the pont de la pierre. That particular evening, 28th, I met up with him about 6pm, he was sat in a canvass chair beside the Vincou, painting. Fred loved les vides greniers and would insist on buying me some small item. At that time he was full of ideas for the future, including moving to Bellac. I found Fred’s book,”c’est votre passion monsieur”, a joy to read. This year I vsited his grave in Marazion, so close to St. Michael’s mount. This Sept. I visited Rancon and took some photos of the Chapelle de St. Sulpice, I noticed that, pinned to the door, is a photo of Fred painting the chapel I gave a photo of Fred to the owner of the Cafe du Commerce in Rancon, to put behind the bar. I did not know him for long but I won’t forget him.


If you would like to add your thoughts to this blog you can either send them to who will add them as a new post or click on ‘comment’  at the end of the existing entries and add your stories there. I am trying to make the site more interactive in the hope that it will eventually take on a character of it’s own but as I am learning as I go along, you will have to bear with me.

Best wishes,


In 1977, with 2 travel companions, I walked into a small art gallery in Cornwall and saw my first Fred Yates painting.

Is the artist local, could we meet him?’

‘Please come, visit me tomorrow,  Fowey is not far away.’

 Fred happily showed us his paintings and his beloved Cornwall, hiking or bumping along in our Kombivan for the next few days. We realized we had met someone special. After an extra two days, we reluctantly departed. Fred insisted  I accept an oil painting as a parting gift – of a house in Devon, now hanging  near our front door.

It was a memorable start to a close and enduring friendship. Over the 30 years to follow, my partner Burt and I visited Fred in various parts of England and France.

Some Memories

Arriving in Rancon, France, after a horrendous travel day, Fred shows us our upstairs bed-room – the bed made up in the most exquisite antique bed-linen –  a remarkable gesture from a man who shunned material possessions-

                        often his houses contained no more than 1 plate, 1 cup, 1 knife, etc…

After we’d gone to bed, we hear the shutters and windows being closed – and Fred, in the room below us, starts playing an old, slightly out of tune upright piano and singing sentimental Edwardian ballads and love songs. And did so  several other nights – ‘it relaxes me’. 

Why close the house up before  playing, Fred?

Well, I don’t want to disturb the neighbours,’ – was the reply.

 The following morning, Burt was still in bed at 7.30 a.m.

‘Where’s Burt?’. ‘Still in bed, Fred.’. ‘Well, that’s a little inconvenient’, came his reply. Fred had his paint bag packed. It was time to scour the country-side for wildflowers, ruins, vistas, etc.  Burt was dressed in less than 2 minutes. Thus began another long walk, often all day.  Even in his late 70’s, Fred had the constitution of the proverbial ox.  That paint bag was heavy!

Nice, 1992.

A ‘little walk’ turned into an all-day marathon. Fred would disappear in the bushes and fossick for plastic water bottles he’d hidden around the whole Cap Ferrat coast –‘I might like to do a water – colour here.’ 

He did, many of them, and they will remain beautiful.

He subsequently sent me, for my 50th., a joyously serene oil painting of the Cap ‘ where we swam and you bought me an ice-cream’ inscribed on the back.

When visiting him in England – again, the one plate, one cup, etc.- after happy reunion hugs, we walked across to his neighbour’s, were introduced and the kettle went on for a cuppa. The neighbours seemed quite unfazed  and were obviously fond of Fred. A stunning little Fred Yates hung above  the fire-place. We surmised that Fred might have done this before!

He was a most generous man, in so many ways. 

As we write this, we’re looking at a small mountain of letters from Fred, going back to even before Fred became ‘collectable’.

Fred was never comfortable talking about his work – best not to analyse too much, might destroy whatever it was that got him there – in front of his easel, doing what he did so well. He was aware he was doing well and he was modest in the knowing of it.

Surprisingly, his letters were more forthcoming, both about his work and his life. He had devoted his life to his art, yet was acutely aware of the consequences of this devotion. But it’s safe to say that he was at peace with the choices he felt he had to make.

One last memory of our time in Rancon

On a gloriously sunny Sunday, Fred decides to ‘paint’ his garden. Enormous tubes of primary colours are emptied next to each other, the empty tubes flicked  over his shoulder  into the garden shed.  Seven hours of quiet focus later,  a true beauty emerged. He took it inside, leant it facing the wall,  some of the paint as thick as one’s finger.

  Are you happy with your day’s work, Fred?’

I never look at it when it’s  finished.  I don’t know  what I’ve created  until I look at it the next day.

 He allowed us to take a series of photos that day, from empty canvass to one of  his best.

    ‘ Those photos are for your eyes only.’ 

   ‘ Of course, Fred.’ 

 In our last ‘phone conversation in June, he was talking about staying with us in Melbourne later in the year. What he would have made of our great southern light…

To look at his paintings now is to see  Fred  the man, our friend, as beautiful as his paintings and the times we spent together. He’ll do alright, wherever he is now.

 Fred’s  wonderful work will speak for him.  We miss him.

 Lee Visser          Burt Cooper

 Melbourne, Australia.


FRED YATESthe-sailors-night-out3

His Own Little World


John Martin represented Fred Yates for 16 years until his death in 2008 just before his 86th birthday. This Memorial exhibition was a personal survey of Fred’s career with key works on loan from private collections.

Fred died peacefully in London on the 7th July 2008 after a short illness. He had been in London for the opening of his exhibition Muck & Brass at the John Martin Gallery.  Fred attended the Private View (typically arriving unannounced at the last possible minute) and afterwards said that he was delighted to have met so many admirers of his work, ‘real people’ as he described them.

A Memorial Service was held for Fred Yates at St James’s Church Piccadilly on 11th September 2008. The service was full of family, old friends from across England and France alongside collectors of his work. Obituaries appeared in the Guardian, The Times and The Independent.

We would like anyone with memories or stories about Fred to add them to this site so that we can build up a true archive of his life & work. If you have photographs of Fred or his paintings you can send them to and I will add them to the site.  To add stories of your own, click on ‘comments’ at the bottom of one of the existing post then scroll down to the ‘Leave a reply’ box and leave your message. Alternatively send them to me at the gallery and I will post them on your behalf.

If you would like to be added to the Mailing List of the Fred Yates Society please send your details along with any enquiries to

With best wishes,

Tara Whelan


Published in The Times July 2008

Published in The Times July 2008