SAN FRANCISCO – Turner Auctions + Appraisals will present an auction from the estate of noted California artist Ira Yeager (1938-2022) on Saturday, October 15. The sale features Yeager’s artworks, plus fine art, decorative arts, furniture and more from his vast collection and estate, which encompasses multiple residences. In addition, lots from Yeager’s personal collection of found objects amassed during many years – what he called “objects trouves” – will go up for bid. Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.
World-renowned for diverse works of art created during six decades, Ira Yeager was acclaimed for his Native American portraits, history-themed paintings and abstract landscapes. He was born in 1938 in Bellingham, Washington, on the coast of the Pacific Ocean near the Canadian border. His father had a namesake sporting goods store, still in operation today, and was a friendly competitor of Eddie Bauer, the man. Ira came of age hunting, fishing and appreciating the natural beauty of the outdoors. He also came in regular contact with Native Americans and Canadian First Peoples with whom his father would trade fishing or hunting rights for goods from his store.
Young Ira’s interests were primarily elsewhere, however. When he was about eight years old, he asked for a set of oil paints for Christmas and received them from his mother, who was always an enthusiastic supporter of his artistic endeavors. He knew from that time that art was to be part of his future, and indeed, the smell of oil paints remained a sensory recollection throughout his life.
In 1957, Ira moved to the San Francisco Bay area to attend the California College of Arts and Crafts, where he studied with abstract expressionist Richard Diebenkorn, and later with Elmer Bischoff at the San Francisco Art Institute. He then went to the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence to further his studies, beginning a lifelong passion for Europe, Morocco, travel, cultural immersion and eccentric characters in his wide circle of friends. A true bohemian, Yeager felt at home in many places and acquired many homes along the way: San Francisco, where his studio was located; Corfu, Greece, where he and his partner George Hellyer lived for a decade; Santa Fe, New Mexico, where recent exhibitions were held at LewAllen Galleries; Calistoga in Napa Valley, also home to the YAGER GALERIE; and Sea Ranch, California.
An enthusiastic entertainer, his many homes welcomed a wide array of friends and acquaintances who would add fun to the festivities. Among them were famed contemporary artists and writers, including Truman Capote, Joan Brown, Tennessee Williams and William Burroughs. From his first solo exhibition in the 1960s in San Francisco, Yeager’s work has been widely lauded and shown in numerous Northern California venues and in Santa Fe. His art is held in many private and public collections throughout the United States and Europe.
In German, the word “Jager,” which became the anglicized surname “Yeager,” means “hunter” – a spot-on description of a man who searched, found and collected throughout his life. Always on the hunt, Yeager was an avid collector for more than 70 years, beginning around age 14 with objects found locally, such as glass floats and paint boxes. His interests were diverse, exotic and eclectic, ranging from Native American jewelry and baskets, firearms and duck decoys, reminders of items from his youth; to European pieces that reflected the history and color palettes of France and Italy of the 17th and 18th centuries.
As Yeager said, he could “go anywhere and find something from the 18th century” – that is, something that supported the tradition of design of the era and that could inform or inspire his own work. In fact, often his finds would show up in his artworks: a colorful teapot or shapely chair, for example, might end up pictured in a canvas, or a footstool or table might become the canvas itself.
Brian Fuller, Yeager’s friend and colleague for more than 30 years, is his gallerist and curator. At Fuller’s YAGER GALERIE in Calistoga, Yeager’s works and objects trouves are showcased in context, just as the artist did. As an artist and collector, “Ira chose beauty,” said Fuller, explaining that he sought beautiful lines, shapes and colors that would culminate in his artwork. While inspired to paint European ancestry or Indian portraits, he sought to “reinvent history,” giving his works a contemporary and challenging interpretation.
According to Fuller, Yeager knew when to stop – always leaving something irregular, an edge, to give his work added life, age or patina. Now, with Ira Yeager’s passing, Fuller is sharing a lifetime of objects trouves – and continuing the YAGER GALERIE, whose contextual vignettes of art and found objects celebrate the spirit and flair of how Yeager lived and worked. It is there the legacy of Ira Yeager will continue to engage, inspire and flourish.
Highlights from the October 15 auction include:
Ira Yeager, 1762, a signed, undated oil and acrylic on canvas estimated at $8,000-$12,000.
A figurative sperm whale weathervane measuring 32 by 31in. Its estimate is $800-$1,200.
Ira Yeager, Dessert Study, an oil on canvas with an estimate of $2,000-$3,000.
A New Haven Arms Co. Navy lever action pistol that has a four-inch barrel. Its serial number is not visible. It has an estimate of $3,000-5,000.
A Navajo cuff of a Kachina, comprised of silver, turquoise and coral and estimated at $200-$300.
An Ira Yeager watercolor on paper self portrait, estimated at $1,000-$1,500.
An Ira Yeager mixed-media Native American head sculpture, dating to 1984 and estimated at $800-$1,200.
An Ira Yeager speckled painted side table with an estimate of $500-$700.
San Miguel de Allende, a 1969 Ira Yeager acrylic and oil on canvas landscape painting that carries an estimate of $5,000-$7,000.
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