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Graeme Willson

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.

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An exciting new gallery open in the Manor House every Saturday and Sunday 11 – 4 pm and at other times.
30 artists showing high quality art and contemporary crafts.
Developed in partnership with Ilkley Manor House Trust and Ilkley Arts.

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