'...It is the man in the street that I’m after, whom I feel closest to, with whom I want to make friends and enter into confidence and connivance, and he is the one I want to please and enchant by means of my work.'

Fred Yates

Fred Yates was born in Urmston, Lancashire, England in 1922. He began his working life as an insurance clerk but this career was cut short by the Second World War, during which he served with the Grenadier Guards. His twin brother was posted missing in action during the failed attempt to capture the bridge at Arnhem during Operation Market Garden in September 1944.

The loss of his brother had a profound effect on Yates and the sense of isolation made him fearful of close relationships throughout his life. Nonetheless, it gave him the resolve to give up insurance work and, against his family’s wishes, become an artist. With a serviceman’s grant he enrolled at Bournemouth Teacher Training College where he received a formal education in drawing, printmaking and painting and won a scholarship to Rome. He then taught in Devon and the South Coast for the next 20 years, a profession which brought some security, but which he disliked enormously. His shyness and gentle manner made it impossible to maintain any discipline in the classroom and the only way he could keep control was to embark on painting demonstrations where he could lose himself in his work and try not to notice the pupils behind him.  Nonetheless he continued painting in his own right and in 1954 came second to L.S. Lowry for his painting of Brighton and Hove Albion Football Club in a competition organised by the Football Association. The painting is now in the collection of Brighton Museum and Art Gallery


In 1968 he finally made the decision to quit teaching and become a full-time painter, moving to Cornwall where he could develop his work supplementing his income with gardening work for neighbours. Most of his early work was painted outdoors on rough boards using household paints, but his approachable style and manner earned him some notable early collectors and in 1976 he had his first solo show at the Reynolds Gallery in Plymouth and in the same year was a finalist in the John Moore’s Prize. During the 1970s and 80’s Yates began to gain wider acceptance and in 1992 had his first London exhibition with Thompson’s Gallery.


Yates’s solitary nature and fear of emotional entanglements made him a habitual house-mover. In the early 1990s Yates moved to France, first of all to a mill house near Beaume De Venise, then to the village of Rancon in the Haute-Vienne, later back to Sablet in Provence, then Nyons and finally the mountain village of La Motte in the Rhône-Alpes. It was during this period that Yates began to produce some of his most daring paintings, often working with huge quantities of paint applied by stick or hands. In his last years he made repeated efforts to return to England, eventually finding a small house in Frome, Somerset. It was on his journey to complete the purchase that he fell and suffered a heart attack. He died in University College Hospital and is buried in Marazion Cornwall.


The John Martin Gallery has been the primary dealer in the paintings of Fred Yates for nearly 30 years, holding 12 exhibitions of his work both during his lifetime and since his death. We are interested in acquiring works by Fred Yates - please email tara@jmlondon.com for further details.


The Fred Yates Estate is administered by HM Treasury Solicitor. Enquiries about copyright, royalties or appraisals should be sent to Melanie Hooper, Bona Vacantia Division, Government Legal Department, PO Box 2119, Croydon CR90 9QU, Tel: 020 7210 3027 email melanie.hooper@governmentlegal.gov.uk


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Selected Works

Solo Exhibitions

2020 Ever Onward, John Martin Gallery, London
2016 The Last Paintings, John Martin Gallery, London
2015 En Plein Air, French Landscapes, 1992 – 2008, John Martin Gallery, London
2011 Escape to Cornwall. A Bio of Fred Yates. John Martin Gallery, London
2011 Crossing the Tamar, John Martin Gallery, London
2008 Muck and Brass, John Martin Gallery, London
2007 Book Launch, John Martin Gallery, London
2006 Flowers and Faces, John Martin Gallery, London
2005 Fred Yates at ArtLONDON, John Martin Gallery, London
2003 Twelve Months in Provence, John Martin Gallery, London
2003 The Lost Paintings, John Martin Gallery, London
2002 80th Birthday Exhibition

Group Exhibitions

2008 London Art Fair, John Martin Gallery, London
2006 New Year Exhibition, John Martin Gallery, London
2006 In to the Jungle – A Homage to Rousseau, John Martin Gallery, London
2005 Summer Exhibition, John Martin Gallery, London
2005 Fred Yates at ArtLONDON, John Martin Gallery, London