Harry Yearsley was born in Salford, one of seven children of a railway engine driver. Not until he was in his thirties did he join Manchester Municipal School of Art as an evening student, but there, in the atmosphere of debate and discovery, he immediately felt at home. Under the influence of Richard Glazier the principal, and Adolphe Valette a French impressionist who worked in Manchester from 1906 to 1920, he emerged as a painter who exhibited regularly in the city for the next twenty years. Whilst at the School of Art he married Marion Armour, a painter, industrial designer and calligrapher.
The School of Art, the Manchester Atheneum Graphic Club, his work as a designer in the printing trade, as a lecturer at Manchester College of Technology, and as an active trade unionist in the Society of Lithographic Artists, Designers, Engravers and Process Workers all provided stimulus to Harry Yearsley’s painting. “He saw beauty even in the horrid dark places” – “He praised the moderns but did not paint like them” – “He was twenty years older than most of us, but few of us ever realised it ” – these were remarks made by people who knew him at the time.