From Castle Howard farm hand to celebrated artist: exhibition celebrates life of Yorkshire painter

The life of a Yorkshire artist whose work took him from the Shetland Isles to Tasmania is being celebrated at an exhibition at the gallery he worked in for many years.

Jack Chesterman died peacefully at home in Leeds aged 84 earlier this year, and now a body of his work is to be exhibited at Dean Clough in Halifax.

Mr Chesterman, who lived in Leeds with his wife Jo, was a former course leader at the then Leeds Polytechnic and was instrumental in setting up links between the university and the Henry Moore Foundation.

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Under his tutelage thousands of young artists benefited from his expertise but it is his own work, focussed heavily on maritime art, which is the focus of his exhibition.

Jack ChestermanJack Chesterman
Jack Chesterman

Mr Chesterman’s fascination with art began at a young age. He was born in Lahore in 1938 and arrived in England on a military troop ship. When a young man, he took on a job as a farm labourer at Castle Howard, and spent the majority of his wages on art supplies.

After three years of National Service and serving as a Horse Guard in the Household Cavalry, Mr Chesterman returned to Leeds where he began his studies at the city’s College of Art, marking the beginning of an auspicious career that spanned six decades.

“In recent years, his work revolved around maritime matters relating to history, journeying, and loss,” his daughter Hannah Chesterman explained.

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“His research took him to the Shetland Islands where he had a great relationship with a community of artists, he was keen on meeting boat builders. It also took him to Hamburg and Tasmania where his great-grandfather Henry Chesterman was the owner of the important ship, The May Queen.

“That trip was a natural conclusion to his life’s work, when he was 80-years-old.”

Mr Chesterman was a keen sailor himself and for a time moored his own yacht on Lake Ullswater.

He was also a devoted family man, with two children - Hannah, 57, and her brother Sam, 55, and three grandchildren, Jack, Alice and Seth.

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Ms Chesterman said: “Dad decided against having a funeral, and instead wanted a celebration of his work.

“Dean Clough is the natural place as he was studio artist there. He had many years of support from the The Arts Charity at Dean Clough to produce work on site.

“It has an overarching feel of Dad’s work from the 1970s to the present day.

“He was painting on his last day alive.

“We have a tremendous legacy of work from my Dad’s life and now we can remember the man and everything he did. He was a remarkable and important Leeds artist.”

The exhibition ‘Journey’s End: Jack Chesterman 1938-2022’ opens today.