FOR many, a landmark birthday is chance to look back on fond memories and celebrate all they have achieved.
But few can say they spent their 75th birthday being honoured with film footage of their work, being digitalised and chronicled for future prosperity.
That is exactly how Barnsley-born artist Ashley Jackson spent the day today, as the University of Huddersfield screened for the first time film that will be archived recognising his significant contribution to art.
The University’s archive department has collected previously unseen footage from the Yorkshire Television 1980 documentary My Own Flesh and Blood, which saw him retrace the steps of his famous flamenco dancer grandmother from Spain to the court of Queen Victoria, as well as black and white footage of a younger Jackson taken at his first gallery in Dodworth in 1968.
That film sees Jackson as he was taking his first steps as a professional artist.
“It really is a trip down memory lane,” Jackson told The Yorkshire Post. “After more than 50 years in the profession it really pleases me that the University of Huddersfield would recognise my work.
“It’s something that I find hard to comprehend, a secondary modern lad like me. I feel very humbled by it.”
A secondary modern lad who was handed an honorary doctorate by the University in 2013, to add to his many other accolades and honours.
But it is the project that he has been working on for the last five years, Framing the Landscape, that he sees as his legacy.
The painter, who has a gallery in Holmfirth and is famed for his moorland landscapes, has long believed that you have to teach children “not just to look, but to see” the landscape around them.
He teamed up with the National Trust and University of Huddersfield to place free-standing, over-sized metal picture frames in some of Yorkshire’s most iconic settings, to ensure that the county’s landscape is placed “firmly in the frame.”
The first was installed at Wessenden Moor in May 2014, and the fifth was placed at Roseberry Topping last week. More can be found at Hardcastle Crags, Brimham Rocks and Holme Moss.
“I have been fortunate that I have been able to read mother nature’s love letters and turn them into paintings,” he said.
“All I want is for people to appreciate the Yorkshire landscape. Schools across the UK have taken it on in their curriculum, and we have an app so that people can learn about painting and the landscape they are looking at.
“We’ve been asked to take it to Scotland, but this is something I want to leave as a legacy for Yorkshire, to bring people here to appreciate the landscape I love.”
The celebratory lunch at the University’s £2m Heritage Quay archive was hosted by the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Bob Cryan. He said that the Jackson paintings on show at the University were a powerful statement of its regional identity.
“He has captured the soul of Yorkshire in his landscapes,” said Prof Cryan. “Our relationship with Ashley Jackson is a completely natural thing. And now, with these new archival items, that relationship has been strengthened still further.”
Portrait of a painter
SINCE giving up his job as Barnsley sign-writer in the mid-1960s, Ashley Jackson has become one of the UK’s most celebrated working artists.
His brooding landscapes have adorned the walls of politicians, princes, actors, former American President Bill Clinton - and even a Yorkshire Bank debit card.
In 2011, Grand Central launched its first ever ‘art train’ in his honour, with the carriages full of his work.
He has been a regular feature on TV screens here and in the States, including the PBS series Ashley Jackson’s World of Art, which ran in the 1980s, and A Brush With Ashley, which ran for 11 years.