(Dennis) William Dring was a well-known painter of portraits and landscapes in oil, watercolour and pastel. He was born in London and studied at the Slade School under Henry Tonks 1922-25, where he was a scholar and prize winner. In 1930, he was appointed teacher of drawing and painting at the Southampton School of Art, and from 1942-45 he worked as an official war artist for the Admiralty and Air Ministry. In 1931 he met and married fellow artist Elizabeth Rothwell who was the model for many of his paintings and drawings.
Dennis William Dring R.A, R.W.S, R.P (1904-1990), Wartime Millinery or The Hat Shop,
40 x 49 cm
top right signed and dated: '40
After his appointment at Southampton School of Art he executed an increasing number of pastel portraits, and pastel was the medium in which he established his reputation as a war artist. He also tried his hand at landscapes and had particular success with painting watercolour landscapes. During all these years, however, he continued to find inspiration for oils and pastels in domestic scenes, which occasionally overlapped with his wartime commissions. Which is believed to be the case of the current work, alternately named, Wartime millinery and The Hat Shop. It was a subject that had been tackled by his tutor Henry Tonks a number of times [fig 1], and another pastel by Dring, though not similar in style, appeared on the market in 2004. In manner, it is more similar to a pastel, Mother and child by the Fireside, made by Dring the previous year. And later the success of another, Nursery, exhibited in 1944, helped towards his election as an Associate of the Royal Academy. Though he had enormous range in the work that he accomplished, it was said, that it was in doing these domestic scenes, that he was most content.
Sixty-four of Dring's wartime portraits, mostly pastels are in the collection of the Imperial War Museum. There are a further forty of his wartime works at the National Maritime Museum.