top of page
GRAEME WILSON self portrait-791.jpg

Image credit Laura Mate

Graeme Willson: A Retrospective at Ilkley Manor House Gallery

The Manor House is thrilled to be hosting a retrospective exhibition in October to celebrate the life’s work of the renowned artist, the late Graeme Willson. There will be works on display that cover the whole of Willson’s extraordinary artistic career, including studio, ecclesiastical and public art. Pieces for the exhibition will be chosen by Graeme Willson’s family Lucy Wright and Jacob Willson, who will be showcasing work from family, friends and private collections and most of the works will be for sale.

“It will be inspiring and moving; it will be one of the most stimulating exhibitions that the Manor House has hosted.” Sarah Thomas, Chair Ilkley Manor House Trust

The Ilkley artist Graeme Willson graduated from Reading University in 1973 with a degree in Fine Art. He then pursued a career as an academic and lecturer at North Lindsey College, York University, Chelsea College, the Institute of Advanced, Architectural Studies, Bretton Hall College and the renowned Bradford School of Art from which he retired in 2011, to devote his time to painting.

Not only an academic and lecturer, Willson was a dedicated practitioner. He had a distinguished and award-winning career as an artist, beginning with winning the Arts Council’s competition, Art into Landscape, at the Serpentine Gallery in London and most notably the Royal Academy Award for Mural Painting for his work at St. Paul’s Church in Thamesmead in 1984.

His best-known work includes his three altarpiece paintings and a ceiling piece for the Yorkshire Volunteers’ Regimental Chapel at York Minster, and his mural Cornucopia for Leeds Corn Exchange which subsequently received the Leeds Award for Architecture and the Environment. Willson was also recognised for his stained-glass, which he produced in partnership with the Martin Johnson Workshop in York.

Examples of his work in watercolour were acquired by Leeds City Art Galleries for their permanent collection. A successful portrait painter, Willson’s distinguished sitters included Sir John Harvey-Jones, Lord Chelmer and Sir William Taylor; and his work has been included in exhibitions at the National Portrait Gallery in London. Willson was a versatile artist whose work covered a broad range of themes human relationships, often expressing ambience through form and colour. References to classical mythology or Renaissance imagery were often subtly interwoven and reworked to express the human form and mood.

Graeme Willson died in October 2018 from cancer, he is survived by his children Jacob and Lucy, and sisters Christine and Rosemary. A percentage of proceeds from the exhibition will be donated to the charities Candlelighters and Yorkshire Cancer Research.

“This will be one of the most important art exhibitions happening locally in 2019, it will celebrate and pay homage to an artist of great and diverse talent.” said Dr Patrick Eyres, art historian and academic and Director of the New Arcadian Press.

The exhibition will be open weekly, Wednesday to Sunday, 11am - 4pm, from Friday 4 October until Sunday 27 October.

bottom of page