FORMER Ilkley artist Leslie Simpson has died from Covid-19.

Mr Simpson, who was known to many for his art exhibitions in the town and for his Whimseycollies paintings, passed away on April 23.

Mr Simpson was born in Yorkshire in 1930 and lived in Ilkley for many years before moving to Harrogate.

He and his wife Margaret organised a number of art shows, including the first Yorkshire Artists’ Exhibition in Ilkley in 1981. This led to quarterly British Society of Painters art exhibitions in the town.

Mr Simpson came from a long line of artists and showed talent from an early age.

His great grand-father, John Simpson, was an artist and architect who designed a number of churches in the Leeds area.

He was also sixth cousin of another John Simpson, who was regarded as one of the leading portrait painters of the early 19th century, and who was the official Royal Portrait Painter to Queen Dina Maria of Portugal.

Mr Simpson’s great-great grandfather, James Simpson, designed non-conformist churches in the 19th century,

Leslie Simpson studied at art school and became a commercial artist, cartoonist, and painter. His first major canvas was of the Crucifixion and was displayed in an art exhibition in 1971 at the Unity Hall in Wakefield.

His first major commission was an oil painting, showing the last full session of Wakefield City Council - a work which now hangs in Wakefield Town Hall.

Mr Simpson went on to concentrate on freelance work, including portraiture, magazine illustration, and architectural painting.

Along with his wife Margaret he launched Ilkley’s Castle Art Gallery.

In 1981 the couple organised the first Yorkshire Artists’ Exhibition in the Kings Hall in Ilkley, featuring the work of leading and regional artists, including David Hockney.

The exhibition was very successful and led to further shows. Mr Simpson also went on to organise British Society of Painters’ art exhibitions at the Kings Hall and Winter Gardens.

At its peak in the last two decades of the 20th century, the exhibition included more than 1,000 paintings from 250 artists.

In 2003 Mr Simpson - who had three border collies - launched his Whimeseycollies series.

The loveable paintings became hugely popular, and the theme was also used for calendars and children’s story books, with author Russell Forgham.

Mr Simpson also served as Director of the British Society of Painters.

He leaves a widow Margaret, son Nigel, daughter in law Wendy and grandchildren Edward and Annabelle.