Articles

Ira Yeager – 2004 Host and Featured Artist

Napa Valley Mustard Festival Website

To meet artist Ira Yeager is to become enamored. His charm, wit and art are of such scope and diversity that one is inspired by how much an artist can accomplish. A Napa Valley Mustard Festival committee assigned to select an artist to represent the Festival in 2004 had the pleasure of meeting Ira and visiting his country estate in the spring of 2003. The visit became a two-hour tour of his fascinating art and antique filled pavilions. The morning passed quickly and there was still much to see. He offered to fix them lunch. They didn’t want to take advantage of his time and generosity. Following that spring morning in the green hills above Calistoga, Ira agreed to create an image for the Festival’s 2004 poster. His sincerity and flexibility became even more evident when he accepted the committee’s request for a chef’s image more contemporary than the old world European style paintings he is so well known for. The resulting Le Sommelier de la Moutarde is the perfect blend of old and new, warmth and invitation. Le Sommelier’s intense and welcoming gaze is irresistible – and certain to lure connoisseurs and art collectors to the Festival’s captivating events. “I am honored to be the Mustard Festival’s Host and Featured Artist this year,” says Ira. “The Festival works hard for our community, and I am honored to have the privilege of contributing to this tremendous effort.” Mustard Magic – the Grand Opening Event at The Culinary Institute of America – celebrates and brings to life works by French masters – a true match with Ira’s life and work. The World of Ira Yeager and Le Sommelier de la Moutarde will greet guests as they enter this year’s event magnifique on January 31. Born in Bellingham, Washington in 1938, Ira started painting and collecting antiques as a child. Influenced by Morris Graves and Mark Tobey, he launched his career painting abstracts during his teens. Moving to California in 1957, he enrolled in the California College of Arts and Crafts, where he studied under Richard Diebenkorn, who encouraged him to develop a more independent style. An awakening interest in Bay Area abstract and figurative painting took him to the San Francisco School of Fine Arts (later the San Francisco Art Institute) to study under Elmer Bischoff and Nathan Oliveira with fellow students and friends, Joan Brown and Manuel Neri. Ira has since resided, studied and painted in Italy, Monaco and Greece, traveling extensively and painting in England, Spain and France. His first one-man show was held at Pantechnicon Gallery in San Francisco. In New Mexico his lifelong interest in the representation of American Indians was kindled. He has derived inspiration from travels in the United States and south of the border in Mexico and Guatemala, as well as in Europe. While residing in Greece for a decade beginning in 1973, he purchased property in Napa Valley, established a studio on Shotwell Street in San Francisco, acquired a studio in Tribeca in New York City, and exhibited in San Francisco. In 1982 he left Greece for life in Northern California, working in Napa Valley and San Francisco, moving his studio to Napa Valley following the 1989 earthquake. Throughout Ira’s prolific career he has produced work in series, ranging from landscapes and abstractions to Native Americans and 18th century subjects. A permanent collection of his famed Wine Vendor Series hangs at Swanson Vineyards and Winery in Oakville, California. Ira’s work is collected by celebrities including Robert Redford, George Lucas, Danielle Steel and Napa Valley Mustard Founder George Rothwell and his wife Alice, owners of Antique Fair in Yountville. “We are extremely pleased to have introduced the Mustard Festival Board of Directors to Ira and his wonderful work,” says George. “He is a special human being. We are very proud to own several of his paintings – and look forward to the bidding still to take place on Le Sommelier de la Moutarde. The highest bidder will own a priceless piece of artwork.” Ira’s Mustard Festival painting was unveiled at a special event and opened to bidding at Domaine Chandon on November 9, 2003. The high bid as of press time is $12,000. The painting will hang at Domaine Chandon throughout the Mustard Festival, going to the highest silent bidder at The Mumm Napa Photo Finish on March 27. Ira will be guest of honor at Grand Diner a Domaine Chandon on February 20. The seven-course dinner presented by Napa Valley luminary chefs and winemakers is offered at $175 per person and is limited to 125 guests. Ira’s work will also be featured in an exhibit at The Marketplace, the Festival’s Signature Event, at COPIA: The American Center for Wine, Food & the Arts on March 13 and 14.