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About David Atack


Born in Oldham 20 May 1949, David Atack was educated at Manchester Grammar, took a foundation course at Ashton-under-Lyne, then qualified at the Central School of Art and Design in London. His first one-man show was in Hampstead in 1976, and his full-length portrait of Robert Rooke was shown at the National Portrait Gallery in 1982. 

Further one-man shows in Edinburgh and London, and the showing of “The Jazz Pianist” at the Royal Festival Hall, led to commissions to paint Vice-Chancellors and Chancellors for UMIST, and the universities of North London, Westminster and Bradford. 

A commitment to portraiture, combined with figurative and abstract work, was recognised by the award of an Honorary Master of Science from UMIST in 1997 and election as Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in 2001.


I planned to be a painter, but becoming a portrait painter happened as commission followed commission. I love the challenge but, whenever possible, I try and introduce something in the painting which gives clues about the sitter. 

However, I am just as happy painting landscapes and still-lifes, and anything where I can use my imagination, such as views where the image is distorted to convey my own vision of contemporary life. I also love painting abstracts where I can improvise and explore colour and shape. They are a kind of intellectual and aesthetic game. 

But the bottom line is that I love painting, fine painting, imaginative painting, bold painting, and I have been commissioned to paint the imaginative as well as the straight portrait. I relish both types of challenge!

In the Studio

Sittings can take place at the client’s home or in the artist’s studio at Marley Hall in Yorkshire. Sittings are pleasant events when one can talk to the artist as he sketches and, if at Marley Hall, be entertained within the splendour of a Jacobean Manor House. 

The days of having to sit still for a portrait are long gone, indeed, the artist is known for gaining insight into the sitter by casual chat — it is enjoyable! 

The setting of the portrait can be varied to suit the request of the sitter, and there is a range of examples outdoors, indoors, with favourite pets, formal and informal. 

Sketches can be supported by camerawork, and the progress of a portrait can be followed by internet links.


David is interested in a range of subjects which support his art. These include music, history, languages, travel, nature and, of course, modern technology. 

He has been fortunate to be free to explore these loves from bases in London, Brittany and his native Northern England. As custodian of Rainham Hall near London, and now caring for Marley Hall in Yorkshire, David is in his element in surroundings diverse in flora and fauna, buildings which breathe history, which need an artist’s eyes and hands – and with piano and guitar to be played. 

So the “media room” off the Jacobean Hall of the Manor at Marley should not surprise anyone who knows that an artist like David is incomplete without ability to play with lighting, cameras, computer links…. 

Improvisation and inventiveness are fun elements in the artistic world of David Atack!