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World-Renowned Artist Ira Yeager Passes at 83
Jan Du Plain - Du Plain Global Enterprises Jan Du Plain - Du Plain Global Enterprises
Calistoga, CA
Monday, January 17, 2022

Ira Yeager

Yeager's work spanned more than six decades, many styles, and several nations around the world.


January 17, 2022….Ira Yeager passed away peacefully at his home in Calistoga, California, on January 5, 2022 at age 83, in the presence of close friends and secure in the knowledge that he was well-loved, much admired, and an inspiration to all who knew him.


A true bohemian, raconteur and entertainer, Yeager lived a storied life during which he enjoyed numerous adventures around the globe and achieved artistic successes that established him as an eminent Post-War and Contemporary painter. His celebrated works include landscapes of the many locales he lived in and visited, the Native Americans he met in his U.S. travels, the many colorful characters he came across during his world travels, and the natural beauty he saw in the animals and flowers he encountered along the way.


Ira Yeager was born November 10, 1938 and raised in Bellingham, Washington, as one of three children. His father, Ira Yeager Sr., founded a sporting goods store - that continues to bear his name - and led fishing and hunting expeditions in the majestic Pacific Northwest. The younger Ira rejected these pursuits and turned to art, taking up painting by the time he was only eight years old. His father's work, however, exposed young Ira to Native American culture and experiences which would inform a significant portion of his later work.


Yeager enrolled in the California College of Arts and Crafts in San Francisco where he studied with the abstract expressionist Richard Diebenkorn, who would push him to adopt his own independent style.  Later, in the San Francisco Art Institute, he found himself under the tutelage of Elmer Bischoff. After his schooling, Yeager set out to explore other countries and cultures.  Along the way, he developed a distinctive body of work that captured the personalities and environments he encountered while living in Florence, Corfu, Tangiers, Santa Fe, and New York City, and traveling around England, France, Mexico and Guatemala and other destinations.


It was his time in Greece and Morocco which particularly inspired him. "When I found the Mediterranean, an awakening and an epiphany emerged – I was home," he once wrote.  It was in Tangiers that he would encounter a truly eccentric group of characters-- American heiresses, artists, famous writers, drunks and all sorts of "riff-raff" – fitting right in with his "freewheeling personality."  Yeager quickly became friendly with Beat icons Alan Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky, William Boroughs, playwright Tennessee Williams, Gore Vidal, Truman Capote and writers Paul and Jane Bowles to name a few.


In his 30's, Yeager met the love of his life, lawyer-turned-ceramic artist George Hellyer at a random party in San Francisco. The two lived in Corfu, Greece for a decade but eventually moved back to California together. Yeager settled in the town of Calistoga where he bought a home and studio nearby Hellyer's 50-acre Zinfandel vineyard and farm. While Hellyer grew prized wine grapes as well as fruits and vegetables, Yeager continued his life as an artist.  The couple also maintained a residence in San Francisco along with Yeager's own famed studio on Shotwell Street.


Yeager's adventurous spirit and dramatic flair was complemented by Hellyer's regal style as they joined to become a social power couple, moving among movers and shakers, VIPs and celebrities, and many who didn't fit in any of those categories. Their life could only be described as a "moveable feast" building friendships around the world with not only the high and the mighty but with everyone they came across including their own employees or those working in restaurants and shops – anyone Ira felt would be fun to join in on the festivities. Yeager enjoyed mixing everyone up together and, as a result, attendees at their vibrant get-togethers never knew who they might be sitting next to. Yeager also befriended, inspired, and was inspired by renowned Bay Area artists and contemporaries, including Joan Brown, Manuel Neri, and Robert Colescott.


Yeager and Hellyer formalized their union in 2018 and continued to enjoy their elegant lives together until Yeager suffered the loss of his partner of almost 50 years when Hellyer passed at age 99 in June, 2021. He continued to paint at his Calistoga Studio until his death on January 5th.


Yeager's first exhibitions were in group showings in Europe and he held his first solo figurative exhibition in the mid 1960s at the Pantechnicon Gallery in San Francisco. A few years later, he would first show his burgeoning American Indian series while in Santa Fe, New Mexico, acquiring a home and studio there in 2015.  This kicked off one of his most enduring artistic passions with an exhibition at LewAllen Galleries in Santa Fe.  He would go on to have his work displayed at many exhibitions in Northern California including the Mondavi Vineyards Gallery, Vanderbilt and Company, Swanson Vineyards Salon, Peninsula Museum of Art, Napa Valley Museum, Napa National Bank, Lawson de Celle Gallery, Academy of Art College Gallery, Art Exchange Gallery, COPIA American Center for Wine, Food & Arts, and in his studio in San Francisco.


Yeager published several collections of his work including Ira Yeager: Indian Paintings; Forty Years of Indians, Ira Yeager: Process and Progression An Exhibition of Pivotal and Transitional Works, 1958-2008, VINETVM ET CAELVM: Vineyard & Sky, and 2137 Tanger Soccoa limited collection of unpublished letters written by his friend Paul Bowles, which he illustrated.


In 2000, he bought a beautiful estate at Sea Ranch overlooking the Pacific that served as his "Versailles"- one of his favorite getaways for relaxation and parties with the local community. When there, he also painted and exhibited at the nearby Gualala Arts Center.


The culmination of his travels, his friendships and life work is celebrated at the YÄGER GALERIE in Calistoga, Napa Valley – a permanent monument to Yeager's work launched four years ago by his Curator and Studio Director of almost 30 years - Brian Fuller. Numerous exhibits since 2018 include "Indian Summer: Portraits of Nobility," "Homage to Pierre Bonnard" and "I Giardini Segreti di Sicilia" ("Secret Gardens of Sicily.")

Yeager is survived by his sister, Sally Yeager, and his nephew, Frank "Skip" Uhrig of Bellingham, Washington as well as nieces Marianne Uhrig and Ellen Uhrig. Other relatives through his union with George Hellyer include his niece, Jan Du Plain of Washington, DC and nephew, Robert Hellyer of North Beach, Maryland. Those at his side when he passed included his "adopted son" Moises Caballos, caregiver and aide William Salato, and long-time business partner and friend, Brian Fuller.

An "Ira/George Celebration" of their life and art is planned for Tuesday, March 22, 2022 at the Yager Galerie in Calistoga. Call 707-341-3141 for further information.




Press Contact: Jan Du Plain (202) 486-7004




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Name: Jan Du Plain
Title: President/PR & Special Events
Group: Du Plain Global Enterprises, Inc.
Dateline: Falls Church,, VA United States
Cell Phone: 202-486-7004
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