THE three-day Silsden Art Show planned for this weekend has been cancelled, along with countless other spring events.

So organiser Colin Neville is presenting it online instead - the virtual show features 90 images by 16 of the local artists due to attend the event. The images can be found at Colin’s website,, which showcases local artists past and present.

For a small town, Silsden has produced an impressive range of professional artists. Colin celebrates seven of them in his book, Past Silsden Artists, the proceeds of which support the community-run Silsden Town Hall.

The remarkable thing about most of the artists, says Colin, is that they came from fairly humble backgrounds. “Jack Clarkson and Augustus Spencer, for example, came from working-class households, yet did well for themselves in the art world,” he says. “Spencer became Principal of the Royal College of Art, a post he held for 20 years, and Clarkson gained a senior position in art education.”

Jack (1906-1986), a teacher, painter, sculptor and wood-carver, was born in Silsden, the son of a clog iron maker. The family lived at Tufton Street and Jack went to Keighley School of Art, before winning a Scholarship to the Royal College of Art, where his tutors included the sculptor Henry Moore. Moore beame Jack’s mentor, encouraging and influencing both his painting and sculpture styles.

“Henry Moore was another Yorkshireman, from a similar working-class background,” says Colin. “The two artists had both been raised in small terraced houses - Moore at Castleford, Clarkson at Silsden - and both had clawed their respective ways up the greasy pole of the art world.

“Moore had a big impact on Clarkson’s painting style and had encouraged him to focus on the overall form, and not the detail of scenes. If Jack became too obsessed with detail, Moore would, in good humour, tell him: ‘Stop clerking around, Clarkson!’”

From 1930-1944, Jack taught at Sheffield College of Arts and Crafts, becoming head of the sculpture department. In 1945 he was appointed principal of Newcastle-under-Lyme Art School, a position he held until retirement in 1968.

“Jack achieved recognition for his paintings of English Midlands industrial and townscape scenes,” says Colin. “The landscape and buildings of the Potteries in Staffordshire inspired many of his oil paintings. While principal of Newcastle-under-Lyme Art School in the 1960s, he could see how the Five Towns were changing, with imports from overseas beginning to threaten the ceramics industry.

“During the 1960s and early 70s he embarked on a mission to paint the industrial and townscape scenes around him before they vanished, as they did from the late 70s onward.”

Jack exhibited his work across the UK, including the Royal Academy and Royal Society of Arts. Some of his paintings are with the Bradford Museums and Galleries collection.

* Past Silsden Artists is published by Silsden Local History Group. To order a copy visit