African Savannah Elephant

by David Shepherd


MEDIUM: Oil on board
DIMENSIONS: (unframed) 13 x 21.5 inches/33 x 55 cm
SIGNATURE: Signed lower right


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    Catalogue No: 6942 Categories: ,

    David Shepherd was commonly regarded as the world’s leading wildlife artist. He started his artistic career as an aviation artist, and an early commission for the RAF took him to Kenya where David painted his first wildlife subject and he never looked back. In 1984 he established the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation to fund vital enforcement and community projects that protect wildlife survival in the natural habitat, and received many conservationist awards including an OBE.

    David Shepherd dedicated much of his life to protecting endangered wildlife, using his exceptional artworks to raise funds and awareness for conservation projects across Africa and Asia.

    This painting depicts a herd of African savannah elephants. Because savannah elephants live in the open it has been easier to study them. We know an average family unit of savannah elephants consist of around ten females and their calves, bulls are adult males and are only associated with a herd during mating season.

    The longer a viewer analyses the painting the clearer the characteristics of a savannah elephant become. It is quite obvious there being a difference between Asian and African elephants however species within these are a lot more difficult to differentiate. As Shepherds interpretation of this landscape is so particular and encapsulating it not only creates a clear visual for the viewer to understand the characteristics of this species but only further proves the lengths of his talent.

    African elephants have large ears in general however savannah elephants have even larger ears in comparison to African forest elephants as savannah elephants are in the open therefore subjected to harsher heat, their larger ears help to radiate excess heat. Their hind legs are shorter than their front legs and their tusks curve outwards whereas forest elephant’s tusks grow downward and are straighter.

    Acquired directly from the artist;
    Private collection UK

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    David Shepherd CBE, FRSA, FRGS was known internationally as one of the world’s leading wildlife artists. He was also a passionate conservationist; he and the David Shepherd Conservation Foundation raised more than £3 million towards helping to save critically endangered mammals in the wild. Prolific in output as a painter of not only wildlife but portraits, landscapes, aviation, military subjects and steam railways, he was also a respected author.

    At the age of twenty David was thwarted in his attempt to become a game warden in Kenya. On his return to Britain a chance encounter with the artist Robin Goodwin resulted in his being taken on by the artist’s studio and this vigorous training was to last for 3 years. Afterwards, David began to paint aviation subjects which were prompted by his boyhood experience in London during the Blitz. He received commissions from various airlines, and in 1960 the Royal Air Force flew him to Kenya and asked him to paint the local wildlife. His first painting was of a rhino, for which he charged £25. From then on he said “My career took off, and I have never looked back”.

    In 1962 Shepherd had his first one-man exhibition at the Tryon gallery in London and he also produced a print of his painting ‘Wise Old Elephant’, both of which were highly successful. After a sell-out exhibition of paintings in 1967 in New York he started collecting steam engines that were going to be scrapped. This led to his founding The East Somerset Railway, a registered charity which was opened in 1975. In 1976 David wrote his autobiography ‘The Man who Loves Giants’ and this was revised and updated in 1989. In 1985, ‘David Shepherd – The Man and His Paintings’ was published and this brought together in a single volume a fully representative selection of his work. In 1995 his two latest books, ‘David Shepherd, My Painting Life’ and ‘David Shepherd – Only One World’ were published.

    David Shepherd was awarded an Honorary Degree on Fine Arts by the Pratt Institute in New York in 1971 and, in 1973, the Order of the Golden Ark by HRH The Prince of The Netherlands for his services to conservation. He was made a Member of Honour of the World Wide Fund for Nature in 1979 and received the Order of the British Empire for his services to wildlife conservation. In 1986 David was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and in 1988, President Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia awarded him with the Order of Distinguished Service. He was made a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society in 1989 and he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Science of Hatfield Polytechnic (now the University of Hertfordshire) in 1990. In 1996, David was made an Officer (Brother) of the Order of St. John, and in 2008 was awarded the CBE for services to art and conservation, and admitted to the Fellowship of The Worshipful Company of Painter-Stainers.

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