Born 1931David Shepherd CBE, FRSA, FRGS is known internationally as one of the world’s leading wildlife artists. He is also a passionate conservationist; he and the David Shepherd Conservation Foundation have raised more than £3million towards helping to save critically endangered mammals in the wild. Prolific in output as a painter of not only wildlife but portraits, landscapes, aviation, military subjects and steam railways, he is also a respected author.
At the age of 20 David was thwarted in his attempt to become a game warden in Kenya. On his return to Britain a chance encounter with the artist Robin Goodwin resulted in his being taken on by the artist’s studio and this vigorous training was to last for 3 years. Afterwards, David began to paint aviation subjects which were prompted by his boyhood experience in London during the Blitz. He received commissions from various airlines and in 1960 the Royal Air Force flew him to Kenya and asked him to paint the local wild life. His first painting was of a rhino, for which he charged £25! From then on he says “My career took off, and I have never looked back”.
It was at that same formative time in David’s life that he became a conservationist when he saw 255 dead zebra lying around a poisoned waterhole in Tanzania. Now he is regarded by many as being one of the world’s leading wildlife artists but also, because of the enormous debt that he says he owes to wildlife for the success it has brought him, he is known internationally as a leading conservationist
In 1962 Shepherd had his first one-man exhibition at the Tryon gallery in London and he also produced a print of his painting ‘Wise Old Elephant’, both of which were highly successful. David is passionate about elephants and steam locomotives for the same reasons; he likes anything big! After a sell-out exhibition of paintings in 1967 in New York he started collecting steam engines that were going to be scrapped. This led to his founding The East Somerset Railway, a registered charity which was opened in 1975. In 1976 David wrote his autobiography ‘The Man who Loves Giants’ and this was revised and updated in 1989. In 1985, ‘David Shepherd – The Man and His Paintings’ was published and this brought together in a single volume a fully representative selection of his work. In 1995 his two latest books, ‘David Shepherd, My Painting Life’ and ‘David Shepherd – Only One World’ were published.
David Shepherd was awarded an Honorary Degree on Fine Arts by the Pratt Institute in New York in 1971 and, in 1973, the Order of the Golden Ark by HRH The Prince of The Netherlands for his services to conservation. He was made a Member of Honour of the World Wide Fund for Nature in 1979 and received the Order of the British Empire for his services to wildlife conservation. In 1986 David was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and in 1988, President Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia awarded him with the Order of Distinguished Service.He was made a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society in 1989 and he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Science of Hatfield Polytechnic (now the University of Hertfordshire) in 1990. In 1996, David was made an Officer (Brother) of the Order of St. John, and in 2008 was awarded the CBE for services to art and conservation, and admitted to the Fellowship of The Worshipful Company of Painter-Stainers.
David is 78, married with four daughters and lives in West Sussex.