Graeme Willson: A Memorial Retrospective at Ilkley Manor House Gallery

13 September 2019

The Manor House, Ilkley will be hosting a retrospective fundraiser exhibition 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.


Notes to Editors

Image credits Laura Mate (except the image of the mural, Cornucopia, to which the credit is unknown)
The Manor House Museum and Gallery is a diverse and thriving cultural centre for the benefit of the whole town
of Ilkley and its surrounding area, improving the cultural, heritage and educational life of the town.
Enquiries: 01943 607030
Address: Ilkley Manor House, Castle Yard, Ilkley, West Yorkshire LS29 9DT
Exhibition runs weekly Wednesday to Sunday from Friday 4th October to Sunday 27th October, 11am – 4pm.

About Yorkshire Cancer Research
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