Artist Profile - David Naylor

The Norman House by David Naylor

The Norman House by David Naylor - Credit: Archant

Folllowing his cancer diagnosis in 2018, local artist David Naylor is seeing his beloved local landscapes in a new light.

David Naylor painting in his garden studio

David Naylor painting in his garden studio - Credit: Archant

Artist David Naylor and his wife Diane have lived in the beautiful village of Edensor, on the Chatsworth Estate, since 1987. Diane had started work on the estate three years earlier, being employed as a secretary to the head forester, based at the sawmill at Calton Lees, a short cycle-ride from Edensor. When the mill closed in 1995, she went to work in the Devonshire Collection at Chatsworth House, where she became the Photo Librarian, ‘managing all things image-related’.

David, who graduated from Chesterfield College of Art in 1976, ran a successful picture-framing business in Chesterfield before going into partnership, in 1999, with Steve Earnshaw to set up Derwent Wye Fine Art in Rowsley, a village reached from Edensor by taking a walk across the bucolic countryside of Calton Pastures.

David and Diane’s enjoyment of their daily commutes through the stunning local landscapes has been matched by the pleasure they have obtained from living in Edensor. Their cottage in Jap Lane has neither name nor number, but is easily identified by the monkey puzzle tree that was planted in the front garden by David shortly after they arrived in the village. It has now grown to a height that exceeds that of the house. Their large rear garden contains a chicken run, David’s studio, Diane’s greenhouse and a Ben Barrell sculpture, a surprise gift bought by David to celebrate his wife’s fiftieth birthday. The couple even have their own access over a bridge into Chatsworth Park.

Their garden, lovingly planted and maintained by Diane, is open to the public in June for Edensor Day, village fête and open gardens. This annual event, resurrected ten years ago, also gives David, a great motor-cycle enthusiast, an opportunity to put on display a selection of his vintage bikes.

St Peter’s Church from Edensor Lane by David Naylor

St Peter’s Church from Edensor Lane by David Naylor - Credit: Archant

Asked for his view of life in a ‘show village’, David says: ‘It would be easy to believe Edensor is all about façade, but beauty here is more than skin deep. There is a real sense of belonging to somewhere special.’ Endorsing his comment, Diane adds, ‘The thing that makes living in the village so special, apart from its location in Chatsworth Park, is the people. We have a wonderful, friendly, caring community which has seen us through some difficult times.’

Those difficult times began in October 2018, when David was diagnosed with stage-four bowel cancer. Since that time, his illness has placed physical limitations on the way he conducts his life, including putting paid to those daily walks across Calton Pastures. In January 2019, he embarked on a long series of chemotherapy sessions. Throughout periods when the therapy has been intense David has been too weak to paint but, during gaps in his treatment, he has been able to pick up his paint brushes and harness a new burst of creative energy that is impacting on the art work he is producing in his garden studio.

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Although David had created a good number of paintings before his illness, much of his energy had been put into the daily operation of Derwent-Wye Fine Art. The light and airy exhibition space David and Steve established in Rowsley is a mecca for collectors of British twentieth-century paintings. As well as featuring work by well-known St Ives’ artists, such as Sir Terry Frost and Sandra Blow, the gallery specialises in displaying and raising the profile of work produced by a talented group of Sheffield artists, including Harry Epworth Allen, Stanley Royle, Joe Scarborough and George Cunningham.

David and Steve were joined in the business between 2005 and 2014 by John Basford, who coordinated a successful series of art auctions and wrote several superbly-illustrated and well-researched monographs about the artists featured in the gallery. A workshop in the upper floor of their premises is the base where David and Steve provide their expert framing and restoration service. It also contains a studio space where David can create his own paintings.

Near Alport by David Naylor

Near Alport by David Naylor - Credit: Archant

The art work he has produced in his Rowsley studio includes a portrait of his wife Diane and several imaginative posters he has been commissioned to make for Sheffield Bike Specialists, a famous heavy-metal rock band, and for boating festivals on the Norfolk Broads. One detailed painting depicts the boat yard where David works on the wooden cruiser Judith M, which he and Diane sail on The Broads.

Proceeds from sales of his various boating paintings have been donated to the Weston Park Cancer Charity in Sheffield, where he has been receiving treatment. Some of his paintings are exhibited in his gallery in Rowsley, whilst others can be viewed at the Devonshire Arms in Beeley, where examples of his work are on permanent display.

Since his cancer diagnosis, David has turned more for artistic inspiration to his own village and the countryside he encounters in the short strolls he is able to manage from his home. During these limited excursions, many undertaken in the low light of spring, and with the added help of photographs of the locality taken by Diane, David has started to see the local landscape and village in a completely new way.

Some of the landscape paintings he has produced recently in his garden studio are clearly inspired by the work of Harry Epworth Allen, who made many excursions into the Peak District from his home in Sheffield in order to ‘capture the rhythmical bulges and depressions in the landscape’. Like Allen, David is fascinated by the hollows that form deep gashes in the limestone plateau and he appreciates the way the stone walls running across the countryside pick out and exaggerate the natural contours. However, many of his pictures depict the Derbyshire landscape in his own unique way, as a series of wave-like forms which seem to give the rolling countryside the dynamic appearance of an ocean.

Coombe Cottage by David Naylor

Coombe Cottage by David Naylor - Credit: Archant

David’s pictures of Edensor, painted since his cancer diagnosis and executed in oil paints, rather than in the acrylics he uses for his poster art, capture the effect of fleeting light on the buildings of the village. His painting of the tall spire of St Peter’s Church seen from the top of Edensor Lane is given extra dramatic effect by his inclusion of long shadows patterning the road surface. Fleeting light is also used to highlight the texture of the wonderfully idiosyncratic dwellings that give the village its unique appearance. This is especially true of his close-up views of Coombe Cottage and a villa known as the Norman House. These paintings are almost forensic in their study of the stone work of the two buildings, which make an important contribution to the character of this special place.

To purchase David’s paintings, contact Derwent Wye Fine Art (01629 733310) or Proceeds from sales of his most recent paintings, on display at the Devonshire Arms in Beeley, will support the Weston Park Cancer Appeal. Turner’s Art, formerly of Rowsley, now at Lumsdale Road, Matlock ( have generously provided, free of charge, all the materials David is using to create these paintings.