David Cobley

David has been a keen observer of people all his life, recording and interpreting his observations in drawings, paintings and writing. He is one of the UK’s leading portrait and figure painters, and is working towards a major retrospective of his work at the Mall Galleries, London from 10th to 15th September in conjunction with a new book about his life and work.

He has painted people from all walks of life and his portraits hang in the National Portrait Gallery. He has had solo exhibitions in Bath and London, but it hasn’t all been plain sailing. As a student he dropped out of Liverpool College of Art after just one term and in his twenties spent almost ten years in Japan, teaching English among other things. He returned to the UK as an illustrator with his young family, painting in his spare time. He set up Bath Artists’ Studios in 1996 and had a studio there for many years before moving to Devizes where he now works. He is an elected member of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters and the New English Art Club

David grew up in a small town called Higham Ferrers in the Midlands. Encouraged by parents, teachers and his Uncle Don he set out to become an artist. But it was his art master at Wellingborough Grammar School, Eddie Phillips, who taught him more than anyone else about his chosen subject. After a foundation course at Northampton he briefly attended Liverpool School of Art before dropping out after just one term. He funded a course in Comparative Culture at Tokyo’s Sophia University some years later by teaching English, and returned to England with his young family in 1984. He worked as a free-lance illustrator near Bath for several years, drawing and painting as much as possible in his spare time.

He was shortlisted for the BP Portrait Award (then sponsored by John Player & Sons) in 1989, and gradually portrait commissions took over from illustration work. Sitters include The Princess Royal, as well as leading academics, actors, scientists, politicians, writers, members of the armed forces and business leaders.

In 1996 he set up Bath Artists’ Studios, where he had a studio for many years. He was elected a member of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters in 1997, and six years later a member of the New English Art Club. He has been a regular exhibitor at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition and held solo exhibitions in Bath and London.

A list of his Award and exhibitions is below.

The Smallwood Architects Prize 2017

The Peter Ashley Framing Prize 2017
Public Prize, Bath Society of Artists 2013
Llewellyn Alexander Award 2004
Public Prize, Holburne Portrait Prize 2004
Prosigns and Graphics Prize 2002
Andrew Brownsword Prize 2001
Daler-Rowney Prize 1999
RWA Public Prize 1999
Tom Rice Gallery, Dublin, Award 1999
John Brandler Prize 1993
Shortlisted, John Player Portrait Award 1989

Solo Exhibitions

Studio Sale, Bath Artists’ Studios 2013
Victoria Art Gallery, Bath 2007
Bath Artists’ Studios, 2007
Messum’s, London 2005
Beaux Arts, Bath 2002, 2004

Selected Opens

The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition

Lynn Painter-Stainers Prize
The Discerning Eye
The Hunting Art Prizes 
The BP Portrait Award
The John Player Portrait Award


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