My Vital Life – Laetitia Yhap at 80


My Vital Life - Laetitia Yhap at 80

My Vital Life is a celebration of the life and work of Laetitia Yhap, Hastings resident and acclaimed British 20th century painter. This exhibition reflects Laetitia's unique approach to the world and the stories she attaches to objects. Explore her 'vital life' through a selection of her drawings and paintings alongside objects and artworks from the Museum's collection. Due to current lockdown restrictions it has not yet been possible to open the exhibition in a physical form. We hope to reopen the Museum as soon as we are able to when you can experience first-hand the paintings and drawings that capture the intensity of Hastings' unique fishing culture. For now, you can enjoy the exhibition through the online content offered here and on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts.

My Vital Life - Laetitia Yhap at 80 (Gallery tour)

Join Laetitia as she explores a selection of her paintings featured in the exhibition My Vital Life - Laetitia Yhap at 80. This video by Mark French has been made to help people experience the exhibition virtually as it is no longer possible to open it physically. Fortunately, Hastings Museum & Art Gallery will host a new exhibition of the artist's drawings and watercolours in the walkway gallery until the end of the year when we are able to reopen.

A Girl Ashore - Laetitia Yhap at 80: A film by Mark French for My Vital Life at Hastings Museum & Art Gallery

In this 2020 film, Laetitia revisits the fishing beach which inspired her art.

Her essay, My vital life is through my eyes, which accompanies the exhibition can be found here. (PDF)

The Catch

In this 2009 film, Laetitia explores the discovery of the fishing community she immersed herself in and the paintings and drawings that emerged from this relationship.

Laetitia Yhap and Mark French's essays that accompany the film can be found here. (PDF)

Laetitia Yhap - Paintings and Drawings: All Hands - A Time Before Steel Boats, Tractors & Mobiles on the Stade, 1974-1995

Laetitia's catalogue from her 2015 Stade Hall exhibition has been republished for 2020, featuring paintings and drawings that make up My Vital Life - Laetitia Yhap at 80.

You can buy a copy here.


Laetitia Yhap was born in London in the Blitz in 1941. Her father was a Chinese medical student and her mother was an Austrian refugee.

Laetitia studied art at Camberwell School of Arts & Crafts between 1958 and 1962. A Leverhulme Research Scholarship took her to Italy for a year looking at Renaissance art and architecture before returning to the Slade School of Fine Art UCL to do a postgraduate from 1963-65.

At that time in London there was an open exhibition called Young Contemporaries. The painting Laetitia sent in received attention from an art critic who mentioned it in a review in The Telegraph. Subsequently, she was invited to exhibit at The Piccadilly Gallery, Cork Street. At the age of 26 in 1968 she had the first of three exhibitions there. After the third exhibition in 1973 she decided not to exhibit for 6 years while her work changed completely.

Laetitia had moved to Hastings in 1967 but it took seven years before, quite suddenly, she found the subject that became central to her work. The cycle of paintings and drawings of the Fishing Industry spanned more than two decades before she succumbed to a serious allergy to oil paint and solvents.

Key solo exhibitions on the fishing series have included the Serpentine Gallery (1979) and the major touring exhibition 'The Business of the Beach' (1988-89).

Around 1996 Laetitia began to explore other materials and ways of working such as mosaic and she studied Chinese calligraphy for four years.

In 2015, a retrospective exhibition celebrating the survival of the fishing fleet in Hastings took place at the Stade Hall, Hastings.

In 2021, Laetitia returns to her fishing series for My Vital Life - Laetitia Yhap at 80 at Hastings Museum & Art Gallery.

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