DAVID and ADRIAN DENT
David Dent was born in Solihull in 1959 and moved to South Wales at four years old. ,After attending school in Cwmbran leaving with 10 O levels and three A levels he was formally educated at Bristol Polytechnic where he emerged with an Honours degree in Education, but after two years teaching in Bristol and South Wales, decided on a dramatic career change. His brother Adrian , born in 1966, was less successful academically at school , having been expelled for truancy before his examinations in order to visit Chepstow Races, though he did return at age 18 to get A at A level Art and O level English. Both are equally dismissive of the education system, citing only their brilliant Art teacher Mike Organ as a strong influence in encouraging them. David decided to study Education as a subject to discover the nature of what he had been through, having had to fight strongly to be able to take the Examinations his teachers thought he would fail due to his poor attitude. Adrian too was bitterly disappointed with his school experience, his love of cricket suffering as a possible trial for Glamorgan was sabotaged by a teacher angry over his truancy of maths. Disillusioned with an Education system which David describes as an “inept instrument of social control” (despite warm acclaim for his teaching abilities) , the brothers turned to their first loves of Horse Racing and Art in 1984.
David and Adrian’s father was at the time dying of cancer, and they spent the last months with him enjoying visits to the races and the bookies, and days out at country pubs as they had done as children.
As teenagers they had also been taken regularly to Speedway by their father and had made their pocket money go further by setting up a little business painting speedway programme boards with dramatic paintings of riders in action. What they learned by studying the riders individual styles was easily transferred to horse racing and they soon started receiving high praise from jockeys when they embarked on their new career, encouraged by their last special moments with their father and his love of racing.
As children growing up in Cwmbran, a New Town in a rural area, love of nature and drawing had always offered them an escape from a mundane lifestyle. David explains:
“...to be brought up around wild animals, forestry, horses and the Hunt was magical for two young lads on a council estate ; it was these things that really formed the backbone of our education and ironically the socialist dream that could have offered social mobility is in reality a fraud. In our area its still either Sport (boxing, athletics, snooker, Equestrianism) or Art (through music in particular) that frees us, and our connection with nature. I can tell you dozens of local stories of kids branded n’er do wells who have become successful racehorse trainers and jockeys, greyhound handlers and the like, aswell as musicians and sports stars. In the meantime I have seen the rapid urban expansion and accompanying social problems encouraged by Labour, and they have the nerve to pretend they defend animals by trying to ban hunting when in reality it is they who continue to devastate their habitat.”
With local equine heroes such as Persian War , Heighlin and Barnbrook Again to inspire them on their way, David and Adrian embarked on a career exhibiting paintings of the horses that had meant so much to them. After a year showing at Chepstow racecourse and some local exhibitions, and encouraged by people as varied as local scooter boys(who had them muralling horses on Lambrettas) ,
Alexandra Francis (the daughter of Chepstow’s director) , Rodger Farrant the Clerk of the Course, and bookmakers Derek Pugh, they soon started to impress Jockeys and Trainers. An oil painting of the Welsh Grand National was brought by then jockey Paul Nicholls, and a joint pastel by trainers Philip and Sarah Hobbs. Their praise of the brothers Art was important, and Martin Pipe was soon to follow as a client. It is interesting to see how these three trainers have now become the top National Hunt trainers in the country, maturing to success along with the Dent brothers Art.
Exhibitions , Clientelle and Development
David and Adrian were soon exhibiting both locally and nationally, with Exhibitions at Harrods in Knightsbridge, The Mall Galleries, The Barbican, The Richmond Gallery in Cork St. , The Wingfield Sporting Gallery and the Osborne Gallery in Covent Garden(now in Knightsbridge).
In addition they developed their own Racecourse Galleries at Chepstow, Cheltenham, Newbury and Taunton. As well as these regular courses, they also showed occasionally at Aintree, home of the Grand National. They have sold paintings to 12 of the winning horses connections, including Jimmy Frost, Brendan Powell , Juliet Reed, and Mick Fitzgerald, and more recently Irish jockey Paul Carberry and trainer Ted Walsh.
In the 1996 something that would spark their creative imagination would occur. They would be invited to the Velka Pardubicka, the infamous Czech Grand National. The year they went saw an English amateur refused a jockeys license in Britain , Charlie Mann, win on his gallant little horse “ It’s a Snip”. This fairytale event coupled with the stories from their childhood of this strange Eastern European Steeplechase, shrouded in mystery, meant the race would feature strongly in their work. They returned to Pardubice the following summer as managers of the British Jockeys team. Chris Maude partnered the Dent/Matt Thole secret partnership horse “Habasha” to second place behind the prolific winning Czech horse “Kreator”. Maude, Guy Lewis , the late Richard Davis and Keith Dempsey were the first British/Irish professionals to ride the course for over 100 years; they became the vanguard of an invasion of British and Irish horses and jockeys to ride there every year since. The Dents have worked closely with Cheltenham in ensuring this was a two way traffic, and now every year Czech horses add to the International profile of the sport by competing at Cheltenham. The Dents friend Vladislav Snitkovski , the first Russian jockey to ride at Cheltenham and the brother of Miss Ukraine, almost upset the apple cart when he frightened the Cheltenham crowd by nearly lifting the first cross country steeplechase there as he finished second on Czech horse Peruan at 50/1.
The brothers would continue with the Secret partnership syndicate, a revival of an Anglo/Czech ownership group concept from the 19th Century, with Snitkovskij and Irish jockey Ken Whelan partnering their bold chaser Muddy’s Boy at Pardubice on many occasions. When David bought Muddy’s Boy in Poland he would start a scrabble for Polish bloodstock that would see Cheltenham Festival winners emerge; but it cant be many people who visit Horse Sales who get surrounded by huge wolves deep in a forest in Poland on their journey back!
The Dents became firmly established as the official artists at Pardubice, and their paintings are now in many famous Eastern European Art Collections. They are also official artists at Kempton and of course Chepstow, Cheltenham and Newbury, where they have also sponsored Races. They also sponsored Irish Grand National winner “Mudahim” and Galway Plate winner “Amlah”, and have also been instrumental in promoting the profile of Arabian Horse Racing, sponsoring a whole card at Beverley and a race n Dubai International Race Day at Newbury.
In Flat Racing too they have been gaining a huge reputation, painting “Dancing Brave” and “Generous” for Princess Nouf the daughter of Khaled Abdullah and wife of the late Prince Fahd Salman. Adrian says “Racing will miss Prince Fahd a lot. He always used to come to our Gallery at Newbury and share a good joke with us…he was a really decent man and a big fan of our work…we will especially miss him”.
Sir Mark Prescott, Brian Voak , David Mort, Lady Herries Jack Berry and Richard Hughes and John Carroll are other big flat names among their clients in the U.K. but in addition they have also been exhibiting in France and the big names of French Flat Racing Chistophe Soumillon, Christophe Lemaire , Yann Lerner and Thierry Thulliez are also among their clients.
David has been working on a series of vivid orange paintings with The Count of Argenton Lucien Peytong - a sculptor based in Deauville – which are currently taking the French Racing world by storm, programmes featuring on French TV’s Equidia programme three times in a month. The Count explains :“ We went out for dinner with some French jockeys , and ask them what they see in a race. The answer was the same for them, and they say, for the horses too: “Red!” Its about adrenalin , and excitement. With our new paintings , which we have encouraged the jockeys to participate in creating , the viewer can see now, for the jockeys , it’s a war, the race .”
In Switzerland too the Dents have a good following among the Swiss Racing fraternity; their stunning paintings of the battle on the frozen lake at St.Moritz enhancing their reputation as artists.
The Dents work is also now being collected in the USA, and they have several opportunities to exhibit there next year.
It is however the Dents love of National Hunt Racing that has ensured their enduring reputation. They are well known faces on the jumping scene , people like Jenny Pitman and Tony McCoy aswell as Pipe , Nicholls and Hobbs, being among admirers of their work. Mick Fitzgerald is one of their biggest fans, his victory on “See More Business” in The Cheltenham Gold Cup captured in oil. So they have done original Paintings for Jockey, Owner(Paul Barber), Trainer (Nicholls) and even the Breeder of the Dents favourite horse “See more”. Their relationship with the Nicholls yard and their owners was further enhanced when they were given the awesome but enigmatic “Green Green Desert” in his retirement, an honour indeed in recognition of their love of horses( the horse was once favourite for the Guineas and the Derby as a two year old but was too highly strung to run in either but was described by Walter Swinburn as the fastest horse he had ever sat on. He later went on to be a great steeplechaser in Bill Tincknells ownership finishing fourth in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham). “Desi”, has been rehablitated by Vikkih Hoile, and is their model for much of their work.
Other National Hunt clients include Champion owner David Johnson, owners John Hales(One Man) Tim Collins (Looks Like Trouble) Matt Archer, Alan Halsall, Brian Stewart Brown, John Brown(William Hill Bookmakers), and Karola Vann ,Desert Orchids jockey Colin Brown, jockeys Paul Flynn and Noel Fehily and trainers Ferdy Murphy, Robin Dickin, and Rod Millman to name just a few.
The Dents corporate clients include sponsors of the Derby” Vodafone”, St.Leger sponsors “Pertemps”
And Cheltenham sponsors “Faucets” aswell as Velka sponsors Ceska Pojistovna.
David Dent is a passionate defender of Incentive Conservation and aboriginal hunting rights, and collects Native American pieces aswell as designing couture items using native furs. Both brothers are outspoken against what they see as attacks on Liberty represented by hunting and smoking bans, and this is often reflected in their Art. They also are great supporters of various Racing related charities including their main charity The Spinal Injuries Association for which they have raised tens of thousands of pounds through sale of their paintings and organising the annual Chepstow raceday.
Adrian has recently married Russian racing stables and Bloodstock Accountant and secretary (from CRB in the Czech republic) and disc jockey from Siberia, Roxanna.
Aswell as Equine and Hunting subjects the brothers are also well known for their Coursing greyhounds, wildlife and also the female form. David launched his own small Couture fashion label in 2010; Ponygurl Couture. David met his partner Eliza through needing a model for his clothing. Eliza modelled at Agent Provocateur; and also at Fine Art institutions like the Mall Galleries, Royal Acdemy and London Sketch club; so she has been a great inspiration to his work. Since meeting she also has acquired the Racing bug and writes a popular blog for the British Horseracing Authority at www.lovetheraces.com
David and Adrian now mainly exhibit at Cheltenham Races and point to points.