David Shepherd (1931-2017) is considered to be one of the finest wildlife artists of the last one hundred years. David’s distinctive style stems from a personal attachment with the animals of Kenya. As a boy, he dreamt of becoming a game warden to no avail, and was fortunate when his early artistic career as an aviation artist led to a commission from the RAF in 1960. On consignment in Kenya, inspired by the animals that he encountered, he painted his first wildlife painting which would change the course of his career; a rhinoceros chasing a Twin Pioneer aeroplane, capturing two of his great passions. It was also on this time trip in Kenya that David became passionate conservationist overnight when he saw 255 zebra poisoned to death by poachers.
In the following years, David’s popularity grew and he quickly became the celebrated artist and conservationist for which he is remembered today. Throughout his career David was inspired to protect the elephants, tigers and other animals that he depicted with such delight. His subjects were painted with dignity and grandeur and his compositions allowed them to take centre stage amongst the breath taking scenery of his beloved Africa. David’s technique of combining photorealism with his broad impressionist style and his impeccably accurate palette, instantly strikes a chord with the viewer, but above all it is his love of the animals that shines through in his paintings creating an instant empathy for them with his audience.
In 1984, David set up the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation in order to repay his debt to the animals that had given him so much success as an artist. His campaigns have won widespread public support and delivered considerable success, as well as receiving conservationist awards. Today, the Foundation’s vision is ‘The Art of Survival’: to fight, protect and engage on behalf of endangered wildlife around the world. For more than thirty years it has worked to influence policy, shift attitudes and provide an unwavering voice for wildlife conservation from grass roots to the world stage. To date it has invested more than nine million pounds in key front line projects across Africa and Asia, that are helping to secure a future for threatened wildlife in natural habitats.
Throughout his long career, David enjoyed numerous successful one-man exhibitions around the world, published five books and was the subject of numerous TV programmes, including the BBC’s 1972 documentary of his life story, The Man Who Loves Giants. In his later years David still lived his life at a fast pace: painting every day and devoting his time and art to wildlife through his Foundation and amassing a collection of steam engines, his other principal passion. David Shepherd passed away in September 2017 after a short battle with Parkinson’s disease, leaving behind an enduring legacy both in his art and with his wildlife foundation.
Gladwell & Patterson have long championed David’s artistic and charitable work, across the three generations of the Fuller family. Our 266 year old gallery has been privileged to display David’s superb paintings over the decades. Together the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation, the gallery held the first retrospective exhibition of David’s work since his death in January 2019. The exhibition raised awareness and funds for the Foundations continuing work with a percentage of proceeds from the sale of the paintings during this exhibition donated to the Foundation for educational projects in Zambia.