Artist profile: David Remfry R.A.

David Remfry is a celebrated British born painter best known for his large-scale watercolours, often of people dancing, his urban landscapes of New York and London, and his portraits of residents and friends painted and drawn during his time at the legendary Hotel Chelsea in New York City.  

Now living and working in London, he has curated several exhibitions, and was Professor of Drawing at the Royal Academy Schools, 2016-2018. Recently he was appointed coordinator of the Royal Academy’s prestigious Summer Exhibition in 2023. 

We were lucky enough to meet with David and his partner Caroline when they visited the Willis Museum and Sainsbury Gallery to see the exhibition of David's works - We Think the World of You: People and Dogs Drawn Together and pose a few questions to him about his life and works.  

When asked how his career in the art world began, David describes how, once he completed his studies, he bought a van from his father for the sum of £50, “which he shouldn’t have charged me for”, packed up all of his artwork and set off for London. After arriving, he landed a flat with his cousin in Earls Court and would spend the evenings working a cleaning job at a hotel in Hammersmith - leaving the daytime free for him to paint.   

A man of many skills, he also briefly touches on a time he worked as a slate roofer in Worthing, after moving to live with and care for his grandmother whose eyesight was deteriorating.  

When asked what a regular day in the life of David Remfry looks like…  

“Cushy… I like to start the day in the studio as early as possible”. This year, he admits, has been incredibly busy. David was appointed Co-ordinator of the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition 2023, responsible for selecting both the panel and working together to make a decision on the 16,500 works submitted for the Exhibition in just one week. “You can only give each work a few seconds”. 

Questioning what part of the creative process he finds the most enjoyable, he ponders, admitting that it is a tricky question. He gestures to his satchel, “I always carry a sketchbook”. Then, with a face of satisfaction, he quickly adds that one of the best feelings he gets is just after he has sanded down the canvas ready to start on an artwork and adds the first brushstrokes of paint. “I like it all actually, it’s just the cleaning of the brushes afterwards that I don’t like!” 

When asked if he prefers working on large scale works, or smaller portraits...  

“Both, but I like messing up on a big scale” 

This intimate portrait series, We Think the World of You, People and Dogs Drawn Together has been described as a departure from his large-scale paintings of people dancing and urban landscapes. I asked him what made him make that change. “I don’t think of it as portraiture, just people” David loves to paint people dancing and loves to dance. He describes the joy in capturing the embraces, holds and decisive moments in time that only happen when you are moving.  

When discussing his people and dogs series, he states that it wasn’t intentional. “It all started with Alan Cumming.” Alan came to sit for David and one day he brought along his dog Honey - David describes how fascinating he found their relationship and the series grew organically. “The stories behind them are so moving.” 

Caroline Hansberry, David’s partner and a talented Curator, very rightly noted that “ is a wonderful marker of time as well”.  

For future sitters, once David knew that the person he was painting had a dog, he would ask them to bring them along. “I like the idea of love, as corny as that sounds, and dogs are a very good vehicle for transmitting that”.  

On the evening of Wednesday 17 January 2024 from 6pm - 7pm, Hampshire Cultural Trust will be hosting a talk, “In Conversation with David Remfry” in the Sainsbury Gallery at the Willis Museum in Basingstoke. Join us as we find out more about David’s life and works and there will even be a chance to ask him some questions yourself.  

Tickets are just £8 per person. Light refreshments will be available, as well as a chance to purchase a signed copy of his book We Think the World of You.

Click here to find out more about the event and buy tickets.

In Conversation with David Remfry | Hampshire Cultural Trust
On the evening of Wednesday 17 January 2024 from 6pm - 7pm, the Hampshire Cultural Trust will be hosting a talk, “In Conversation with David Remfry”.

You can enjoy David Remfry’s collection We Think the World of You: People and Dogs Drawn Together at the Willis Museum and Sainsbury Gallery in Basingstoke until 28 January 2024.  

We Think the World of You | Hampshire Cultural Trust
There’s a personal story behind every relationship between a dog and its owner. These stories have long fascinated artist David Remfry RA.

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