One of the most sought-after English portrait and landscape painters of the 1940s and 1950s, David Rolt was born in Yorkshire but at an early age went to London initially studying painting at Chelsea Polytechnic and the Central School of Art, moving to the Slade in the 1930s with some success. Working mostly as a portrait painter, he held his first solo exhibition in Cape Town, South Africa in 1936. After attracting the attention of art dealer Jack Baer, Rolt went on to hold a further four exhibitions at the Hazlitt Gallery between 1947 and 1956, with another three exhibitions to follow at the Adams Gallery (1958), Istanbul (1966) and New York (1973). His paintings were also shown at the Royal Academy and The New English Art Club.
Best known, perhaps, for his portraits of celebrated figures including the likes of Lord Audley and Winston Churchill, he was also an astute observer of landscapes, both at home and abroad, painting views around Istanbul and France, as well as Berkshire and Wiltshire, where the artist spent the last two decades of his life. Despite being a Yorkshire-man by birth, for over 20 years, Rolt considered Berkshire and the surrounding counties of Oxfordshire and Wiltshire his home. Moving initially to the Old Rectory, Lilley, near Peasemore, in 1959. Rolt then spent the years 1962 – 69 at Chieveley Manor until divorce from his wife, Penelope ‘Minnie’ Bradford, resulted in a move into an apartment at the large manor house at Fresden in 1970, where he stayed until 1982.
In 1985, after suffering from severe pain for several years – the result of disabilities in his right arm and leg sustained at birth when a forceps delivery damaged his skull – Rolt underwent surgery but did not survive the operation. He is buried in Budleigh Salterton, Devon. A memorial exhibition was held in London the following year.