Dennis Creffield Biography

Dennis Creffield

Dennis Creffield (Born 1931)

Dennis Creffield was born in south London in 1931 and studied with David Bomberg at the Borough Polytechnic from 1948 to 1951 and later at the Slade.  He was only 17 when he started with Bomberg, one of the most charismatic and influential teachers of the century, and the experience was transforming. (Among Bomberg’s other students were Frank Auerbach and Leon Kossoff.) Creffield’s liking for charcoal was nurtured in Bomberg’s classes, as was his concentration on structure and the ability to perceive what Bomberg called ‘the spirit in the mass’, that is, the animating, inner being of any thing as opposed to simply its physical mass.

Creffield became a member of the Borough Group, whose aim was to promote Bomberg’s work through exhibitions and his principles by example. The best public collection of Borough Group artists is at the Borough Road Gallery, part of London’s South Bank University on the site of the old Borough Polytechnic, which houses over 150 works from the Sarah Rose collection

In 1987 Creffield was commissioned to draw all the medieval cathedrals of England. This work shows that the methods of the Borough Group survived for many decades. The emphasis on structure as defined by bold charcoal drawing was well suited to the vertical forms of Gothic architecture.  Tate Britain holds 6 similar charcoal works of Canterbury, Durham, Norwich and Peterborough Cathedrals.

One of the most powerful draughtsmen at work today, the paintings and drawings of Dennis Creffield combine a fidelity to the subject with immense improvisation to fuse empiricism with a profound spirituality. Perhaps most famous for his epic drawings of the cathedrals of England and France, the human body has also been a long-standing preoccupation.

Dennis Creffield is admired by artists but little known to the wider public. The distinguished American painter R.B. Kitaj once described Dennis Creffield as ‘England’s most closely guarded secret’.

Creffield has had more than 20 solo exhibitions in the past 45 years, and his work is in public and private collections worldwide, from

Tate Britain to Los Angeles County Museum.