The artist Yankel Feather had a great regard for one of his paintings even though it had clearly been subject to some damage. It had indeed been slashed one night as it hung on the walls of the Liverpool night club he ran as he ejected the offender. Yankel Feather, whilst held in some regard in the art world, never managed to become a household name but the ‘slasher’ fared somewhat better – he was John Lennon.
Feather was born at 66 Stanhope Street L8 on 21st June 1920, one of seven children . His father, whom Feather only met once, was an Austrian immigrant. He attended Harrington Road school and then a Jewish secondary school. His mother died when he was 14 and aged 17 he moved to live with his sister Leah, who had married a soldier and settled in London. He was able to study pottery at Woolwich Polytechnic but the outbreak of war in 1939 brought him back to Liverpool. Initially working at the Rootes factory he was then conscripted into the Highland Light Infantry.
From his early years he longed to be an artist, developing his technique mostly through observation of the classics on view at the Walker Art Gallery. He had a number of mundane jobs, including a GPO telephone operator. The late 1950s saw him exhibiting some entrepreneurial spirit in opening a club in Mount Pleasant in 1958, ‘The Basement’; it was here that John Lennon abused his painting. He mixed with many in the emerging ‘Merseybeat’ music scene, notably Brian Epstein. Feather is much quoted in Debbie Geller’s book The Brian Epstein Story [Arena 2000]. Like Epstein Feather was Jewish and gay, but whilst he got to know Epstein quite well he felt that he was “sort of fickle…He wasn’t the sort of person I enjoyed being with but I thought at the time he was the sort of person I should get to know because he was rich, he was attractive and he wanted to go places”. His early works reflected the Liverpool music scene, depicting the rock and roll dance scenes from local dancehalls and his club
Continuing to paint and exhibit by the late 1960’s Feather was making his living as an antique dealer. He was reasonably successful and in 1977 he retired to Cornwall. It was here that his ‘career’ as an artist blossomed, partly through the support of his lifelong friend the abstract painter Sir Terry Frost. He gained more public recognition and exhibited in St Ives.
He died on 18th April 2008, aged 87.
Feather had a number of Liverpool homes. In the late 1940’s he lived at 147 Bedford Street South L8, then in the 1950s at 139 Upper Parliament Street L8. For many years until he moved away from the city in 1977 he lived in a detached Victorian villa in Grassendale at 9 Western Drive L19. He was related to the Feather family who run the Feathers Hotel.
Yankel Feather's home in the 1950s
Feather's home from the 1960s until he left Liverpool in 1977.
The Wikipedia entry gives some basic information and the obituary in the Independent discusses his approach to art in some detail. There are two videos of Feather on YouTube, one in which he talks of his experience of being gay in Liverpool in the 1950s and one in which he talks briefly about Brian Epstein.
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