David Inshaw: Looking Back, Looking Forward

David Inshaw ,  Allotments , 1988. oil on canvas. Courtesy of The Redfern Gallery

David Inshaw, Allotments, 1988. oil on canvas. Courtesy of The Redfern Gallery


David Inshaw (born 1943) is one of this country’s most distinguished figurative painters, a visionary artist in the tradition of Samuel Palmer and Stanley Spencer, who paints both landscape and the human figure. His iconic painting The Badminton Game (1972-3) is one of the best-loved pictures in Tate Britain. He lives in Wiltshire and paints the surrounding chalk downland with insight and affection. When he first moved there some 40 years ago, a girlfriend introduced him to the works of Thomas Hardy and he realized how nature could become the vehicle and context for his most deeply-felt experiences. In some ways he can be seen as a contemporary interpreter of Hardy’s Wessex.

At British Art Fair 2019 the ground floor exhibition space at the Saatchi Gallery is given over to a selective retrospective of work by David Inshaw.

There is now a stretch of England which could justifiably be called Inshaw Country, focused on the Wiltshire Downs around Devizes and Marlborough, and the ancient sites of Avebury and Silbury Hill. This has been the setting for a great many of his finest paintings. There have been interludes in other places, notably Cambridge, Wales and London, and West Bay in Dorset has become another favourite subject, but mostly Inshaw has remained true to Wiltshire. He has known and loved this landscape for nearly half a century, and during that time his understanding of it has matured and developed, just as his style has evolved from the tiny immaculate brushstrokes of the early paintings to the more broad and expressive sweep of his work today. Side by side with his investigation of landscape, Inshaw has painted
people – portraits, nudes, figures in interiors or in the landscape – his preoccupation with the human form balancing his abiding passion for the hills and valleys of the west of England.

Inshaw’s work is renowned for its mood of celebration: of the beauties of the natural world as well as the women who have been his muses. That generosity of spirit is balanced by an intimate appreciation of the great artists of the past, whose works are frequently referenced in his own work. David Inshaw reaffirms with wit and warmth the human place in the world and our part in its larger beauty.

The exhibition is curated for BAF by Andrew Lambirth, long time Spectator art critic and author of David Inshaw: Between Fantasy and Reality, and The Redfern Gallery.