Eye-catching exhibition marks 50 years of masterclasses from artist

AN EYE-CATCHING exhibition is on display at Saddleworth Museum to celebrate 50 years of masterclasses taught by talented artist John McCombs.

John McCombs (left) with Cllr Nikki Kirkham, chairman of Saddleworth Parish Council, and Mayor of Oldham Cllr Shadab Qumer at the exhibition

Award-winnig artist John, who lives in Greenfield and has a studio and gallery in Delph, is nationally recognised for his iconic landscape and figure paintings.

He first started teaching art to adults in 1967 when he moved to Delph after leaving St Martin’s School of Art in London.

In recognition of the half-century since his masterclasses began, his current students are displaying their some of work at Saddleworth Museum and Art Galley until September 3.

The exhibition features figure and landscape works featuring many landmark Saddleworth scenes, including Dovestone Reservoir, Pots and Pans, and Heights Church above Delph.

A special launch event was held last month as John’s students gathered with special guests chair of Saddleworth Parish Council Cllr Nikki Kirkham and the Mayor of Oldham Shadab Qumer.

John said: “Thanks to the museum for hosting this exhibition and especially to Peter Fox, the curator, for thinking it was a good idea.

“It all started 51 years ago in 1956 when my friend Dave and I were taking a holiday and we decided we should go on an adventure walking somewhere in the countryside.

“We got on a bus in Manchester, not knowing where it was going, and decided to just get off at the terminus – that was in Uppermill.

“We set off walking and found a signpost which read: ‘Huddersfield 14 miles, Oldham 4 miles and Delph ¼ mile’.

“We were so intrigued by the name ‘Delph’ – and it was closest! – that we went that way.

“As we stood looking down the main street I vowed when I finished at college this was where I was going to come to live and paint.”

John moved to the area in 1967 as a professional artist and after just three weeks was asked to teach art to adults at the night school in Uppermill.

“I have loved every minute of it. It has enriched my life and I am very grateful,” he said. “I have made my friends and most importantly of all one of my students – Sheila – became my wife.”

Cllr Kirkham revealed: “When I was 17 I did a bit of modelling for John so that’s my claim to fame!

“The exhibition is absolutely fantastic and a credit to John and his students.”

John with some of his current students at one of his classes at Saddleworth School

She also read a glowing letter from Manchester Academy of Fine Arts, of which John is a past president, congratulating him for his work and contribution over the decades.

John’s current classes meet on Tuesday evenings from September to May at Saddleworth School to paint and draw from clothed models.

From June to late August they paint outdoors in various places around Saddleworth, with favourite venues including Heights, Chew Valley, Delph village and Larkhill.

Andy Clark from Delph, a former pupil of 15 years, said: “John always had something positive to say about our work. He never critised and that was very encouraging.

“There were a lot of artists at the classes who were beginners and amateurs but he never made you feel like that. He was a great teacher.”

The exhibiton will be hosted at Saddleworth Museum until September 3, open daily from 1pm to 4pm. Admission is free to the gallery.


2 Replies to “Eye-catching exhibition marks 50 years of masterclasses from artist”

  1. John McCombes used to escort me on the bus to school when I started there as my Mother was a little concerned about me travelling alone. Manchester High School of Art was an amazing school and I am so proud to have been a pupil there in the late 50’s leaving in 1962. It was wonderful seeing these talented guys from my old school still going strong and usuing their undoubtable talents. The 10 out 10 group were always going to make a future in Art they all excelled at school back in the 50′ s and 60’s. Please let John know he was a real gentleman even at the age of 15!

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