BOOK REVIEW: John Chapman’s Transport Paintings

IF you’re stuck for a last minute Christmas gift for someone special, or just want to treat yourself to a treasure trove of nostalgia, here’s a real gem.

Regular readers will already know of acclaimed local artist John Chapman through his on-going charitable commitment to East Lancashire Hospice. Over the past few years John has donated a succession of his wonderfully evocative and unashamedly nostalgic paintings to the hospice to be reproduced as Christmas cards and, this year, a calendar. His scenes of a “Whalley Winter Wonderland”, a “Downham Winter Scene” and “Winter in Clitheroe” have been bestsellers across the Ribble Valley and further afield, raising vital funds for the hospice’s outstanding work.

These incredibly detailed pictures are set in the 1950s and ’60s and more often than not feature some form of transport of the day, making them particularly appealing to “men of a certain age”.

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Now a collection of more than 120 of John’s finest works has been packaged together in a new book, entitled simply “John Chapman’s Transport Paintings”.

From mighty steam locos to classic cars, Blackpool trams to London Transport Routemaster double deckers, all are featured in this spellbinding volume, and each set in their own appropriate time and location.

The artis is a master at taking a still recognisable location and peeling away the years, like layers of wallpaper, to reveal the scene as it would have looked 40 or 50 years ago. An added dimension is the glorious colour of John’s paintings, recalling “in glorious technicolor” an era which many people viewing them will only have experienced througn black and white photos or film.

Born in Blackburn in 1946 and a professional artist since 1968, John’s native Lancashire looms large thorughout this volume, including a sprinkling of familiar Ribble Valley locations, including Downham and Longridge.

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Also found here are busy street scenes from Manchester, Wigan, Darwen, Bolton, Baxenden, Blackpool and Fleetwood, to name a few, but this pictorial journey ventures much further afield too, into Yorkshire, Cheshire, Merseyside up to Scotland, across to Wales and even down to our capital city, London. Most are urban scenes, demonstrating the artist’s precise eye for architecture as wall as engineering, but there are country scenes too, populated by old David Brown, Fordson and Fergie tractors, shire horse and canal barges.

Every picture is a feast for the eyes, with so much detail that keeping a magnifying glass close by this book is my earnest recocommendation. Each picture is also accompanied by informative comment from the artist, explaining the significance of the view and all it contains.

Above all what shines from each page of this book is John Chapman’s enthusiasm for an era now sadly gone, when beautiful examples of British engineering were to be found on every street, in every rail yard or field. This is a book you’ll go back to time and again, and an affordable way to own a fine collection of this artist’s unique, fascinating and highly prized work.

In an age when almost everything is “virtual” or “digital download” it is also, very pleasingly, a proper book, printed on high quality glossy paper, weighty and nicely bound... it even smells good!

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Priced at £19.99, John Chapman’s Transport Paintings (ISBN 978-1-906690-11-3) is available from all good booksellers or, in case of difficulty, from Halsgrove Direct on 01823 653777.

You can learn more about the artist and his work at his website ( and his charity Christmas cards and calendar are available online at: