In Focus: The rural Surrealist bringing a touch of Dalí to the Cotswolds

Surrealism meets romance and whimsy in the work of David Blakemore, as Jane Wheatley finds out.

David Blakemore learned to paint at the renowned Lavender Hill Studios in London’s Battersea, where the hours of quiet concentration were a sanctuary from the stress of running his own restaurant. His father had been a film designer, his mother a professional photographer: ‘I counted on having art in my genes,’ he reflects. By 2012, the restaurant business was struggling and he threw in the towel, settled his debts and moved out of London to try his hand at making a living from art.

There wasn’t much money left, but Mr Blakemore rented a tiny cottage in the exquisitely lovely village of Naunton, Gloucestershire, and set up a studio in the second bedroom. Now, he is, he reveals, the happiest he has ever been.

The artist developed a distinctive style of landscape painting: a little bit Ruralist, a little bit Surrealist, romantic and whimsical in strong, saturated colour. An early commission was to paint a castle with the forecourt laid out as a chessboard.

Recommended videos for you

‘Then, that became a sort of motif,’ he notes. Black-and-white checks appear on a woodland path, chess pieces gaze from an open window — one has escaped across the voluptuous flanks of the hills outside. ‘I like to work in situ, then go back to the studio and let my imagination run wild.’

There is evident affection for his adopted landscape — a copper beech at Rollright, silage bales casting black shadows over mown grass and the famous Broadway Tower with its fairytale turrets.

By the time the pandemic arrived, Mr Blakemore had acquired a small coterie of private buyers and collectors. ‘They saved me from penury,’ he smiles.

The plucky villagers battling to save their local village pubs

The fight to save rural pubs is ongoing, but, as Jane Wheatley reports, communities across the country are coming together