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a close-up of David Cobley, brush in hand, painting a canvas on an easel


who, what and why

David paints pictures. Such people are often called 'artists', but David has never been comfortable with the term. "Since Marcel Duchamp, the word 'art' has become pretty-well meaningless. I have always enjoyed playing with shapes, lines and colours and combining them to provoke a reaction."


David grew up in a small town called Higham Ferrers in the Midlands. Encouraged by parents, teachers and his Uncle Don he set out to become an artist. But it was his art master at Wellingborough Grammar School, Eddie Phillips, who taught him more than anyone else about his chosen subject.


After a foundation course at Northampton he briefly attended Liverpool School of Art before dropping out after just one term. He funded a course in Comparative Culture at Tokyo's Sophia University some years later by teaching English, and returned to England with his young family in 1984. He worked as a free-lance illustrator near Bath for several years, drawing and painting as much as possible in his spare time.


He was shortlisted for the BP Portrait Award (then sponsored by John Player & Sons) in 1989, and gradually portrait commissions took over from illustration work. Sitters include Royalty and Sir David Attenborough, as well as leading academics, actors, scientists, politicians, writers, members of the armed forces and business leaders.


In 1996 he set up Bath Artists' Studios, where he had a studio for many years, before moving to Devizes in 2013. He was elected a member of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters in 1997, and six years later a member of the New English Art Club. He has been a regular exhibitor at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition and held solo exhibitions in Bath and London.

me turning to the right and smiling


The Smallwood Architects Prize 2017

The Peter Ashley Framing Prize 2017

Public Prize, Bath Society of Artists 2013

Llewellyn Alexander Award 2004

Public Prize, Holburne Portrait Prize 2004

Prosigns and Graphics Prize 2002

Andrew Brownsword Prize 2001

Daler-Rowney Prize 1999

RWA Public Prize 1999

Tom Rice Gallery, Dublin, Award 1999

John Brandler Prize 1993

Shortlisted, John Player Portrait Award 1989


Solo Exhibitions

Mall Galleries, London 2019

Studio Sale, Bath Artists’ Studios 2013
Victoria Art Gallery, Bath 2007
Bath Artists’ Studios, 2007
Messum’s, London 2005
Beaux Arts, Bath 2002, 2004


Selected Open Exhibitions

The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition

Lynn Painter-Stainers Prize
The Discerning Eye
The Hunting Art Prizes 
The BP Portrait Award
The John Player Portrait Award



Sir David Attenborough gesticulating in front of Charles Darwin's notebook


Sire Ken Dodd with tickling stick in front of his portrait at the NPG


the lord mayor of london


a girl sitting on the edge of a bed, seen from above


a painting of the artist in his studio, seen from above
a pastel study of a girl with wet hair


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