Explore the gallery...

By Artist

Click here for a full list of artists
By Medium
By Date
By Keyword

Click here for a full list of keywords
Telephone: 0131 226 6932 or 0845 388 5879
46 Queen Street, Edinburgh, EH2 3NH, Scotland

Biography and current catalogue for

David Thomas Rose MICE (1871-1964) 

David Rose wrote, still painting in his eighty-seventh year: "..an artist in fact, is a person endowed with a keener sense of beauty than normal, plus an insatiable urge towards pictorial expression". For someone who produced over 3,000 watercolours of subjects as diverse as markets, ships, workmen, cartoons, mythological scenes, harbours and animals, this could hardly be a more apt description; yet Rose only earned his living as an artist for a few brief months, during 1908.

Born in the Scottish Borders and brought up in Nairn, David Rose was by all accounts a shy man who sketched and observed from an early age. On his father's insistence, he joined the family butchery business but after two years was apprenticed to an Inverness engineering firm, where he “…..would be allowed to do all the drawing he desired”.

His first job as an articled civil engineer took him to Glasgow in 1896, where he was struck by the work of the Glasgow Boys and, in particular, of Arthur Melville (1855-1904). During the next two years he studied at night classes at Glasgow School of Art, probably under the direct tutelage of Fra’ Newberry (then headmaster) and gained South Kensington Awards for drawing from life, anatomy (which would have included visits to the pathology department at Glasgow University), antique full length (drawing from casts) and drawing antique from memory. Proof of his ability came the next year when he exhibited (what may have been his first work shown in public) "A Brown Study" at the Royal Glasgow Institute.

In 1904 David Rose made his first trip abroad, to Malta, where he worked on an extension to the breakwater at Valetta Harbour and met his future wife, May Reichelmann, the daughter of his English landlady. On completion of the project in 1907, he spent three weeks travelling back to England; this was to be his most extensive foreign tour and provided him with material for paintings for years to come. The boat from Malta went first to Tripoli, on the Mediterranean coast of Libya, then on to Tunis, before reaching Sicily. He must have spent several days in both places judging by the number of sketches which exist. Although still a shy man by nature (he never lost his strong Nairn accent), he was oblivious to stares while sketching and apparently attracted such a crowd in the market in Tripoli that the British Consulate had to provide him with an escort. He habitually chose unusual places to draw; back streets and the ordinary way of life fascinated him. He would make small figure sketches and use the characters again and again in later works. Markets also drew his attention and were to feature to a large extent in his later work.

In Sicily he did a lot of sketching, then made his way to Naples where he became ill and moved on to Rome (did 2/3 sketches), then on to Florence where the illness recurred and Venice. By this time he was so ill that he had to abandon his intention of touring Switzerland and France and went straight to Lucerne where a friend nursed him back to health.

Back in London he tried to become a professional artist, but after a few months realised that he could not support his new wife and returned to full time civil engineering. His next job was the construction of the King George V graving dock at Southampton and in 1913, when this was successfully completed, Rose, his wife and their new daughter moved to Wales, where he supervised the extension of the breakwater for Fishguard Harbour. During his seven years in Wales, David Rose had a couple of cartoons published in "Punch". Always attracted to "characters", he produced cartoon drawings throughout his career. He also exhibited his first works at the Royal Academy, the first, in 1918 being "A Tunis Street".

Family summer holidays during these years in Fishguard and later Yorkshire, were almost invariably taken in Scotland. His sister became an eminent obstetrician, working in Edinburgh and the Roses would often stay with her in Joppa or with other relations, in Fife. While there in 1933, he made a watercolour sketch of the houses (since demolished) by the old port in Kirkcaldy and also spent much time sketching and painting the coal miners and Fife pit workings. Rose sketched prolifically, especially in the Dean Village and at Leith Docks.

In 1920 the family moved again, this time to Nidderdale in Yorkshire, where Rose oversaw the building of the Scar House reservoir for Bradford Corporation Waterworks Department. This was a monumental undertaking and Rose was directly in charge of around 600 navvies - which once more gave great opportunity for the drawing of "characters". During this time, he took up etching and produced etchings and lithographs of shipbuilding and Edinburgh. This interest in printing can be seen as an influence on his later technique.

When he retired in 1935, the Roses moved from Nidderdale to Brighton, to be near their daughter who by then was working in London. His retiral years were the happiest of his life and at last he could devote himself to painting. He joined the Brighton and Hove Art Club, a club which no longer exists, but then was exclusively male and met on two nights a week for mutual criticism and to draw from life (they also played draughts at which David Rose apparently excelled). He made many friends through the shared interests of the club and the year after retiral, Conrad Andreae (1871-1956) accompanied him on a sketching trip to Rye. The following year they travelled further afield to Bruges and the year later to Normandy. Andreae had studied art at the Slade School before going to Paris where he studied at the Atelier Julian.

In 1937, at the age of 68, David Rose had his first one-man exhibition in Brighton. He continued painting for many years and died in 1964, aged 93; his wife outlived him by only a couple of months.

In 1993, the Calton Gallery held an exhibition of 85 of his watercolours and drawings, "David Thomas Rose - Markets, Places & People".


1871 Born 9th May on a farm at Glenluce, Wigtownshire; third son of Alexander and Margaret Rose.

1874 Family moved to Nairn where his father had a butcher's shop.

1885 Left school and apprenticed in father's shop.

1888 Articled to a firm of civil engineers in Inverness.

1896 Gained articles & moved to Glasgow to work as civil engineer.

1896-1898 Attended evening classes at Glasgow School of Art and gained South Kensington medals.

1898 Worked on the construction of the West Highland Railway from Connel Ferry to Ballachulish.

1899 Exhibited 'A Brown Study' at RGI

1904 Worked in Malta on the breakwater for Valetta Harbour. In Malta met his future wife, daughter of his English landlady.

1907-8 Travelled by boat to Sicily via Tripoli & Tunis. Toured through Italy, stopping at Naples, Rome, Florence and Venice.

1908 Spent some months in London trying to earn living as a free-lance artist.

1909 Married and returned to civil engineering, taking a post on construction of the King George V graving dock at Southampton, then worked on extension of breakwater at Fishguard Harbour, Pembrokeshire.

1914 February 4, 'The Helpmate' Punch

1918 Exhibited 'A Tunis Street' RA

1920-1935 Worked for Bradford Corporation Waterworks overseeing building of the Scar House dam at Nidderdale, Yorkshire.

1921 January 12, 'The Charwoman's Husband' Punch

1920s Elected Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers

c1926 Took up etching.

1927 Exhibited 'The Potato Plot' RA
1933 Exhibited 'Zurk-el-Turk, Tripoli' RA
1934 Exhibited 'Contentment' RA

c.1934 Lost the sight of one eye & gave up etching.

1935 Retired from civil engineering & moved to Sussex. Joined Brighton & Hove Art Club. Worked with Charles Knight, Sallis Benney, Charles Burleigh and Morgan Rendle; the "Sussex School"

1936 Painting holiday in Rye, Sussex

1937 Travelled to Bruges, with fellow artist Conrad R. Andreae (1871-1956); one man exhibition in Brighton, given by the Art Club

1938 Travelled to Caen and Falaise, Normandy with Andreae. Exhibited 'A Caen Cafe' at RA

1941 Exhibited 'Dysart Town Hall', & 'Shoreham-by-the-Sea' RA

1942 Exhibited 'St Paul's From Blackfriars' RA & 'Dysart Town Hall' RGI
1943 Exhibited 'Dysart Town Hall' RSA
1944 Exhibited 'St Paul's from a Blackfriars Wharf' RSA
1945 Exhibited 'Slack time and tide, South Coast' RA & 'Shoreham, Sussex' RSA
1964 Died, aged 93
- - - - - - - - - -
1968 Southwark Art Gallery, exhibition of Roses in collection. (North Peckham)
1980 'Sussex Scenes', Hove Museum
1983 20 October, New Civil Engineer, illustration on front cover, article.

1983 Studio Gallery, Tunbridge Wells, Kent. 'David Rose - an exhibition of watercolours'.

1984 'Exhibition of Natural Resources', Bradford Industrial Museum.

1987 'David Rose MICE Engineer and Artist', Harrogate Art Gallery then Bradford Industrial Museum.

1993 Calton Gallery Exhibition "David Thomas Rose - Markets, Places & People".