David R. Anderson (1884 – 1976) only become well-known as an artist in the last years of his life following exhibitions of his work at the Goosewell Gallery, Menston, and at Cartwright Hall – where his work was almost a complete sell-out.
He was born in Glasgow. His father was a master clothier in the city and members of the Glasgow School of Painters offered him paintings in exchange for suits. One painting, by John Reid Murray, of a birch tree, was hung in the young David’s bedroom. It fascinated him: “As a boy that picture penetrated my whole being. I amost worshipped it“, he said in later life The scene inspired him to become a painter and trees were a recurring feature of his later work.
David attended Glasgow School of Art and “painted endlessly” around Fife, particularly in the St, Monance area (see example below). When he was 21 he went to Paris and submitted work to Oliver Merson, director of the Ecole des Beaux Arts. In addition to his artistic talent, he had a fine baritone voice and studied music at the Sorbonne, as well as at the Beaux Arts.
In Paris he met some of the famous painters active at that time, who invited him to sing for them, including Henri Rousseau, Picasso, Cezanne and Degas. The French artist, Jules Flandrin, made a pencil drawing of David in 1906 (shown above). David was encouraged to paint in a similar French impressionistic style that became a feature of his work throughout his life.
On returning to Glasgow from Paris, he entered journalism as a reporter on the Daily Record and by the 1920s had been promoted to its editor by the owner, Lord Rothermere, who was a patron of the arts and relied on Anderson to assess the pictures he considered buying. David was a successful editor and was instrumental in installing the first colour printing presses at the newspaper. In his own time, however, he continued to paint and was a member of the Royal Scottish Society of Painters in Watercolour and Royal Society of Portrait Painters.
Shortly before the start of WW2, David retired from journalism and moved soon after to Ilkley with his wife to be near their married daughter. He was fascinated as an artist by the Wharfe Valley countryside around Ilkley. In retirement he painted hundreds of paintings. He had previously shown work at the Glasgow Institute of Fine Arts and with the Royal Scottish Society exhibitions, and when he came to Ilkley some of his work had been included in a London exhibition of Yorkshire artists’ work. However, he had never had a solo exhibition until he was 89 years of age, as he believed his style of painting had fallen out of style, so had never pursued the possibility. It was only the intervention of a local art dealer that this became a reality.
Following a stroke, and having to move into a private home for the elderly, his paintings came to the attention of Eric Busby, owner of the Goosewell Art Gallery at Menston. Busby was immediately impressed by the quality of the work and began to plan a simultaneous exhibition at Cartwright Hall and at the Goosewll Gallery. Both exhibitions in January 1973 were hugely popular and many paintings were sold.
Eric Busby immediately planned another exhibition at the Goosewell Gallery. In February 1973, amid scenes, described by the local Telegraph & Argus newspaper as ‘like the opening of the January sales’, over 200 art lovers went to the show, packing into the gallery that could, at best, accommodate 100 visitors. In just 90 minutes, 68 pictures of the 79 on show had been sold, and by the end of the show only a handful remained unsold.
In 1976, shortly before the artist’s death, a fourth exhibition at the gallery sold many of Anderson’s remaining work. The artist had stayed away from the exhibitions and resisted all efforts to be photographed by the local press.
” I have a horror of being praised“, he told the Yorkshire Post at that time. ” It’s only the sensitive elite who see quality in a picture.”
A painting by the artist is in the collection of Bradford Museums and Galleries (shown below).