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Liverpool Artist Yankel Feather

Yankel Feather © GXgallery

Yankel Feather was a British painter, he was born in Liverpool on 21st June 1920 to Austro-Russian parents as one of seven and died on 18th April 2009. Yankel was born in Toxteth, into a poor family as the youngest of seven children. He went to Harrington County Primary School and later to a Jewish secondary school. Feather met his absentee father, an Austrian immigrant, only once. He was confronted at the age of fourteen with the premature death of his mother and took up painting after many visits to the Walker Art Gallery. In 1937 Feather joined his sister Leah in south London. He studied part-time under the potter Heber Matthews at Woolwich Polytechnic between 1937 and the outbreak of the Second World War.  

Yankel was one of the most exuberant gay characters of Liverpool’s 1960s art scene. In the early 60s Feather opened the infamous coffee bar and club called The Basement in Mount Pleasant. Roy Adams a former guardsman and amateur wrestler became a bouncer at the Basement for eight years before owning his own clubs, including the Cavern.Decorated with ship’s beams, iron gates, Elizabethan chairs and African images, it was only a matter of time before the club became popular among those in the arts and beat scene. Regulars included John Lennon, who scratched one of Mr Feather’s paintings after being asked to stop bashing out Roll Over Beethoven on the club’s piano. Yankel later showed the coveted but damaged painting  with perverse pride. Feather sold his club in Liverpool in 1967 and after trading for ten years in antiques he was able to retire to Cornwall in 1977. He became a lifelong friend of the abstract artist Sir Terry Frost. It was here that Feather started to come to public notice and gain recognition for the quality of his work.

Harrington Board School
by Yankel Feather

Yankel Feather’s paintings all come from distinctive periods of his life and work. His early years during the Mersey Beat days in Liverpool, depict rhythmical colourful movement in crowded dancehalls at a time when he was a club owner. Feather's Liverpool roots influenced him both socially and professionally. Inspired by Lowry, whom he met at the Walker Art Gallery and visited at Mottram during the mid-1960s. Also inspired by the atmosphere in his Basement Club in Liverpool  he painted every aspect of dance: from the Twist during World War II to Rock ‘n’ Roll, to decades of ballet shows.

Yankel Feather in his studio © GXgallery

He lived near St Just in south-west Cornwall for 20 years, painting prolifically and exhibiting at the Salthouse and New Millennium Galleries in St Ives during the 1980s and 1990s. He was a member of the Liverpool Academy of Arts and the Newlyn Society of Artists. Paintings by Feather are in the public collections of the Royal Pavilion and the Walker Art Gallery. He was an expressionist painter. His early works were more formal, than his later works Feather's style became more expressive and changed as he began painting from memory. His subject matter included still life, populated scenes of Liverpool dance halls, and seascapes of his St Ives period.

Openly gay, Feather found love with two long term partners late in life. He met Bill King whilst living in Cornwall. King died in 1993 from a heart attack. Terry Arbuckle shared his studio home at Hove in Brighton. He expressed his sexuality in a series of simplified linear paintings which show an anonymous and austere outline absent from other paintings.

“I am in the dictionary of Modern Painters and that’s the only qualification I have. A lot of money is not the most important thing. The most important thing is the next painting - a painting which might be wonderful and make me realise that the last one was not.” Yankel recently concluded however: “I am painting the best paintings of my life right now.” And advised: “The only real thing is you. The rest is illusion.”

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