Born: 4 July, 1936 in Solihull, Warwickshire. Died: 7 May, 2014, in Malvern Wells, Worcestershire, aged 77
David Prentice was the painter who, along with the Second World War artist Paul Nash and like composer Sir Edward Elgar, became inspired by the Malvern Hills in the west of England. He died just four days after the exhibition centred on his Nash-influenced depiction of the Malverns opened in Worcester.
In 1997, in Manchester’s Whitworth Gallery, Prentice happened on two Nash works unknown to him. One, Skylight Landscape, depicted the Malverns as seen through a window. Intrigued, Prentice searched for and succeeding in finding the house from which Nash had created his work. He wrote of his experiences in The Artist magazine that year (1997) that he had brought together “a group of works which have reference to that triangle of Severn Valley landscape between (the house from which Nash had made his painting), the Malvern Hills and Cleeve Hill above Cheltenham, where Nash painted a group of watercolours in the 1940s”.
With Philippa Tinsley, curator of Worcester Art Gallery, Prentice discussed his idea of an exhibition based on Nash. David Prentice knew Paul Nash was unable to fly because of asthma – but by using binoculars had succeeded in his Second World War paintings in creating a visual link across the space between himself and his motif. Nash was at the end of his life – dying in 1946 at just 57 – when he painted the Malverns. Philippa Tinsley said: “David had an understanding of the ailing Nash.”
Thus works such as Prentice’s The Green Hill are sited from an imaginary aerial point, bringing together a melange of colour of land and sky.
Born and educated in Birmingham, with National Service in the Royal Artillery, David Prentice studied at Birmingham School of Art, returning there later to teach.
Accomplished in oils and watercolours, he found his oevre in abstract painting, and was just 26 when he held his first solo exhibition at the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists in 1961.
Two years later, during his second one-man show at the same prestigious venue his painting Kate and the Waterlilies was bought by expatriate Scots accountant and art collector Angus Skene for £25. Prentice delivered the work to Skene’s house strapped to the side of his scooter. Over a meal, the two discussed the city’s lack of support for new artists, and the following year, with three other young artists, started the Ikon Gallery in a kiosk off the Bull Ring.
Prentice rarely put down his brushes, and – active almost to the day he died – crammed some 40 solo exhibitions into a busy career.
His exhibitions yielded an international following, and his work features in collections of the V&A, and in Birmingham, Chicago, New York, Oxford and House of Commons, as well as corporate collections such as the Rank Organisation and the Arts Council of Great Britain. He was four times winner of the Sunday Times Watercolour Competition between 1996 and 2007.
He is survived by his wife, the quilt artist and abstract painter Dinah Prentice.