The independent London newspaper

OBITUARY: Death of Jack Yates. A lauded artist who bought his wife flowers every week over 60 years of loving marriage

25 October, 2012

Jack Yates:  An artist, who was ‘like a variety show performer’

Published: 25 October, 2012

JACK Yates was an artist lauded from all corners of London’s art world, but every week he made time to buy his wife flowers – even after 60 years of marriage.

Bouquets of roses, lilies, chrysanthemums and posies would land on her bedside table or the dining table with clockwork regularity, as did gifts of favourite books and foods.

“He was a wonderful husband,” said Hanne Yates, 84. “Our marriage was a benign affair with no frills, there was no money but we were rich in every other way.”

Jack Yates was born on December 16, 1923, to Jack, an entertainer in Yorkshire’s working men’s clubs, and Clara, who looked after the home. He was the youngest of three children, and grew up in “poverty – he was underweight and undersized.”

At 14, he began working in a cutlery-making factory, before being drafted to fight in World War Two.

Son Paul Yates said: “He was part of the D-Day landings, behind a field gun, which meant tinnitus dogged him for life. He used to say he was more concerned about his cigarettes not getting wet than his life during the D-Day landings.”

After the war Jack spent time in a holding camp before returning home, where he took an art class “to make up the numbers”.

“In those days a lot of men didn’t want to take art,” said Paul. “He took to it, and after that his enthusiasm made it a very popular class.”

In 1952, his soon-to-be German wife Hannelore Richter met Jack through friends at an art class.
They married and Paul was born in 1953. Two years later, the family moved to a Welsh hamlet close to Aberystwyth, and Jack took a job in a plant-breeding station.

In 1958, a daughter Susan was born, and the family moved to Lindfield Gardens in Hampstead, where Jack worked as a Mayfair picture dealer, frame maker, Harrods parcel packer, lift attendant and in the office of Oxford University Press.

In 1962, Jack began 20 years teaching at Camden Arts Centre, and the same year Hampstead artist Nicholas Treadwell began exhibiting Jack’s work in a mobile gallery.
“He had a van which he’d take around Camden, the work was beautifully presented inside, and he’d sell the pieces,” said Paul.

Jack’s work was showcased in the Royal Academy, The Wabe Gallery, Rotunda Gallery, Bristol Cathedral and Burgh House. It was unique for its multi-layered effects using different mediums, a recurrent theme of the runaway bride, creating outlines of figures with words, black paper cutting and photograms.

“There was always the sense that the big break never came along, it should have but it always fell through at the last minute,” said Paul.

In the early 1980s, Jack founded and edited Fragments magazine, which focused on art and poetry.

Jenni Lomax, director of Camden Arts Centre, said: “He would come in to give talks, and was such a charmer. He had the way of a comedy cabaret performer, like a variety show performer.”

Five years ago, Jack and Hanne moved to Mora Burnet House in Winchester Road.

Two months ago Jack was diagnosed with lung cancer at the Royal Free Hospital and, on October 15, he passed away in his sleep.

His funeral was held yesterday (Wednesday) at Golders Green Crematorium.


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