SIMPSON, Leslie

The painter, Leslie Simpson (born 1930) and his wife, Margaret, organised art shows in the Yorkshire region, including the first Yorkshire Artists’ Exhibition in Ilkley in 1981, which led to quarterly British Society of Painters art exhibitions in the town.

Leslie was born in Yorkshire and lived at Ilkley. He comes from a long line of family artists. His great-great grandfather, James Simpson, designed Northern non-conformist churches in the 19th century, and his great grand-father, John Simpson, was also an artist and architect who designed several churches in the Leeds area. Leslie is also the sixth cousin of John Simpson (1782-1847), official Royal Portrait Painter to Queen Dina Maria of Portugal, and widely regarded as one of the leading portrait painters of the early 19th Century.

Leslie showed talent for art from an early age and after art school became a commercial artist, cartoonist, and jobbing painter. His first major canvas was a 8′ x 3′ Crucifixion for an art exhibition in 1971 at the Unity Hall in Wakefield.  His first major commission was for a large oil painting, depicting the last Wakefield City Council in full session, acquired 1978, and which now hangs in Wakefield Town Hall (see image below).

‘Council in Session’. Image: Wakefield City Council/Art UK

Leslie gave up employment to concentrate on freelance work, including portraiture, magazine illustration, and architectural painting.

Reverend Patrick Bronte (1777-1861). Image: Bronte Parsonage Museum/Art UK

He and wife also launched the Castle Art Gallery in Ilkey and in 1981 organised the first Yorkshire Artists’ Exhibition in the Kings Hall in Ilkley, featuring 12 leading Yorkshire artists, including the rising star, David Hockney, together with 100 other regional artists.  This was a big success and led to subsequent shows, and later to Leslie organising British Society of Painters’ art exhibitions at the Kings Hall and Winter Gardens in Ilkley.

In 2003 Leslie moved away from a traditional style of painting to launch Whimseycollies, and to develop a style of humorous painting of Border Collies (see example below), which displays his original artwork and illustrations for a series of children’s book on the adventures of ‘Ollie the Collie.’

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