An artist’s artist

March 6, 2013 § Leave a comment

“FOR ME,” said the English artist David Carr, “the greatest paintings are those where the paint becomes what it depicts.” In these videos, Carr discusses his life and work and also his philosophy of what it means to be an artist. Working on Primrose Hill in London (below), he explores the rewards and challenges of painting on location.

His advice to other artists was always the same: “Just do the work,” he would say, and everything else will take care of itself.

View a portfolio of David Carr’s work

A celebration of life and light

March 15, 2003 § Leave a comment

Whitby | David Carr

Whitby | David Carr

The diagnosis of throat cancer last fall came as a thunderbolt. I had been painting in Italy and thought I had succumbed to a local flu epidemic. No such luck — and it was too advanced for anything but radical surgery. By late November I lay in the hospital, speechless in London, uncertain of the future. I knew my singing days were over, but would I paint again?

Those who survive major illness speak of a heightened awareness of the world around them — all its nuances, not only its beauty, but how even the grayest of days is precious. For this painter that is certainly true. My abiding concern in my work has always been the realness and presence of things. For me, the greatest paintings are those where the paint becomes what it depicts.

After surgery, I needed to paint. We had snow in London early in the new year. I had been warned of my vulnerability to cold, but I had to chance it. We’d see whether I was still in the game.

I survived the experience. Emboldened, I knew I could travel north to my native Yorkshire, paint the moors and the coast and see Whitby again. It was marvelous to be out and about with paint and brushes. And now to be a world away in San Francisco — city of light of the utmost clarity — is another blessing.

It is truly a joy to feel strength and vision return, to translate my sense of reality into paint, and to share it with others.

— DAVID CARR

The sanctuary and the artist

November 8, 2001 § 1 Comment

St. Dominic's Interior | David Carr

Rouen Cathedral had Monet, Mont St. Michel and Chartres had Henry Adams, San Marco had Canalletto. In each case, these great religious structures inspired an artist uniquely attuned to interpreting their aesthetic verities.

St. Dominic’s Church in San Francisco has been celebrated in recent years by an artist whose personal vision and painterly skill have captured various truths about the church in painting after painting. David Carr is an honored and distinguished English painter. He has spent a portion of every year painting in the city since his marriage in 1992 to a San Franciscan.

Whether painting St. Dominic’s in San Francisco or Sir Christopher Wren’s churches in London, Carr’s paintings display a supreme mastery and a virtuosity that is always understated and never slick — a virtuosity that enables him to render the most subtle mutations of light and sky with a spontaneous brush. A casual viewer might overlook Carr’s work in this day of overblown creative efforts. His paintings are small and intimate. But if one pauses to examine — what reward to the discriminating eye.

— WILLIAM W. WHITNEY, Nob Hill Gazette

A symphony of shapes

July 21, 1998 § Leave a comment

Primrose Hill, London | David Carr

When I was asked in 1997 to “paint London,” I did not realize the riches I would find. A Yorkshireman born and bred, I saw myself as a painter of the wilder northern scene, not the domesticated city. I set to, and after scanning the River Thames and painting the London skyline dominated by St. Paul’s, I discovered the city churches, now dwarfed by the towers of Mammon — the insurance companies, bank headquarters and office developments which predominate in the square mile known as the City of London.

These are the survivors — a few from the fire of London in 1666, but most from the ravages of Victorian commercial development and finally the catastrophe of the Blitz in World War II. There were 79 churches in 1700, 39 today — all unique.

The narrow city streets gave the architects — Sir Christopher Wren first among them — no vistas to work with. All of Wren’s invention is in the spires and towers — no two are the same, a veritable symphony of shapes. Wren had a vision of a London skyline of spires and steeples in harmony with the dome and towers of St. Paul’s. It is hardly possible to see this architectural tour de force today, but it is this that has inspired me. Turn a corner and one will still surprise you — caught in a shaft of sunlight, silhouetted against an office block or against a rare patch of sky.

I paint on site, usually standing in the street. Frequently I am unnoticed as the hectic world of business rushes by, but the other day in Fleet Street a passerby wished me well — he was from Texas — and a newspaper vendor lent me his stool.

These small paintings are a continuing record of my surprise encounter with the 17th century as we enter the 21st.

— DAVID CARR

An Englishman at home abroad

March 15, 1996 § Leave a comment

David Carr's paintings on view at the Archbishop's Mansion in San Francisco.

When English landscape artist David Carr walked up Scott Street onto the asphalt paths of San Francisco’s Alamo Square for the first time, the vast urban panorama he beheld through the willows and towering evergreen trees filled him with a sense of excitement and anticipation.

“This is my place,” he thought to himself. “All around me there are such marvelous things to paint.”

Born in Yorkshire in the northeastern part of England, Carr believes it was his experiences growing up surrounded by a spectacular rugged coast, and, inland, by wide expanses of heather-covered moors and small green valleys, that gave him his appreciation for beautiful landscape.

In the 1960s he went to London to study at the Slade School of Fine Art, where he won a scholarship for further study at the British School in Rome. In addition, while still a student, he was asked to exhibit with the London Group, an exhibiting society representing the best in British art. The London Group, founded in 1913, has counted among its membership most well-known British artists, including Henry Moore, David Hockney and Lucian Freud. Carr was elected to the group in the 1980s.

Since marrying a San Franciscan in 1992, Carr has divided his time between London and San Francisco. His paintings of Alamo Square were presented by the gallery at a special exhibition at the Archbishop’s Mansion on Alamo Square in 1995.

— WINSTON MONTGOMERY

Where Am I?

You are currently browsing the Carr, David category at Art Matters.