Long before portraiture appeared in the Atack portfolio art critics had noticed over and over again that David’s art moved from subject to subject, genre to genre, with a precise imaginative eye. He could combine realism with abstract, use colours to demonstrate mood – his varied work was so appreciated that critics asked “Where next?”
After the success of his one man shows, David looked at the potential of the B P Portrait Award (known then as the John Player Award) He had to select a daring subject, the surroundings would need to be an abstraction yet deadly accurate. The subject had to draw the eye. He found the perfect sitter in Robert Rooke, whose company specialised in foreign languages copy adaptation and artwork for the advertising industry. A sitter who thought nothing of challenges to create brochures or catalogues in Japanese, Arabic and you name it “by next Friday”. A highly intellectual individual, a precision dresser, a precision person…. When David’s painting of Robert Rooke hung in the National Portrait Gallery at the BP Portrait Award exhibition the monitors showed this painting to attract more viewings than any other painting there.
The precision of Robert Rooke’s dress shows in the “R-R-R” knitted into the sweater in David’s portrait, and then in the dashing professional attire of Robert Rooke overseeing the translation of a catalogue of antique treasures into Japanese. Precision is in his work — “Germans prefer a sans serif face rather than a serif, and the Chinese are generally against lavish, glossy brochures.” David certainly found his individual subject in Robert Rooke.
Robert Rooke’s R-R-R jumper
The still life on Robert Rooke’s desk – the pack of Marlboro cigarettes which almost got the painting excluded from the exhibition (competitor to the then sponsor’s brand!) and the “Petit Robert” dictionary in the foreground carries on the “R” theme…
The number of commissions which followed the showing of the Robert Rooke portrait led David down a new and exciting path of portraiture. His portfolio was praised at schools and universities as well as by private individuals. David became Resident Portrait Artist at the University of Bradford and gained his Honorary degree for the many portraits he produced for UMIST (University of Manchester).
And it all started with Robert Rooke…