Jackson was born in Middleton in 1859, one of three brothers born to a photographer and art dealer father. Jackson showed an interest in art from an early age, but had relatively little formal training. After leaving school he attended evening classes at Oldham School of Art where William Stott was a fellow student and then life-drawing classes at Manchester Academy of Fine Art. In 1880 Jackson’s first painting was accepted by the Royal Academy. This was followed by a spell living and painting in the Conway Valley in North Wales with fellow Manchester artists. In 1883 he first visited Italy to paint and in the following year travelled to Runswick Bay near the artists’ colony of Staithes. In 1884 he also travelled to Paris and his first painting was accepted at the Paris Salon that year. After similar success the following year, he enrolled as a student at the Académie Julian. Amongst his fellow students in Paris were the artists James Charles, Henry Herbert La Thangue, Edward Stott and William Stott. By 1886 he had returned to England becoming a founder member of the New English Art Club, which was set up as an alternative to the Royal Academy which was seen by some as being too traditional. With friends such as Walter Sickert and Philip Wilson Steer, Jackson could have established himself at the centre of artistic society in London, but he eschewed fame for finding good locations to record in paint and refining his technique. He made his home at Hinderwell near Staithes, eventually marrying a local farmer’s daughter.
Jackson was committed to painting en plein air and was a founder of both the Staithes Group and the Staithes Art Club. A friend and tutor to the younger artists who came to the Staithes area after him, Laura Knight acknowledged a great debt to Jackson for the help and advice he offered. She described his love of working outdoors as follows: ‘He painted out of doors in any weather. Under the mittens he wore, his hands were swollen, stiff and chapped, as were the edges of his ears and the wings of his nostrils’. During his life he travelled to Holland, Germany, Morocco and Russia as well as Italy, often with other artists. He died at his home on Long Street, Middleton in 1918 and following his death a large memorial exhibition was held at Manchester City Art Gallery.
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