David Wells Roth, a portrait and land/cityscape artist, was born in Florida in 1957 and lived there through 1966, then moved to New York for a year then Sudbury, Massachusetts from 1967-1975. While in high school he received private instruction from Boston expressionist David Aronson, then in 1975 studied painting at Boston University under a Ford Foundation scholarship, graduating with a BFA in painting. After his studies in 1980, moved to New York City for two years to study and paint cityscapes then on to France for fifteen years to paint European land and cityscapes, showing and selling his paintings throughout Paris and Boston. He returned to New England in 1997 where he now lives and paints.
Urban themes –
Roth’s interest in the urban setting began in early childhood with Bronx native parents. Throughout his childhood, his family made numerous trips to New York City to visit relatives and art and science museums. As a child his interest in drawing grew when his father started him drawing city street scenes as a means to learn perspective. He was exposed to painting as he watched his mother, an amature painter who studied under Robert Motherwell, paint views of the Golf of Mexico across the street from where they lived in Florida. He completed his first oil painting at ten.
In high school, he explored, through drawing and painting, the images and emotions from his parents’ old neighborhood in The South Bronx . At the time in the early ’70s, that area was comparable to a burned out war zone (some examples of these early drawings and paintings: 1964-1975). In college his painting education was all about observation and understanding how to interpret a visual experience into paint. He was exposed to the art of Wayne Thiebaud, Richard Diebencorn, Richard Estes and Edward Hopper, to name a few artists who took interest in urban imagery, reinforcing his attention in that genre. After college in 1980, as a logical progression, Roth moved to New York City to exclusively explore and paint the city life. Despite the financial hardships of being a fledgling artist in New York (which included living in his car for a time, as well as a rat infested basement storage space and an attic, etc.), he painted cityscapes, views in Central Park and street scenes throughout New York City and sold them to passersby off of his portable easel (1980-1982).
Living and Painting in Europe –
In 1982 while struggling in New York, a French family he met through a family friend offered Roth the opportunity to live in their home in the town of Fontaine de Vaucluse in the South of France for several months in exchange for a painting. For the next four months, with an old Renault loaned by the family, he painted the region of Avignon. A relative of that family offered a similar arrangement to barter one of those paintings for an apartment in the Paris suburb of Le Pre St. Gervais for two years, but the arrangement lasted through 1997 (paintings from France: 1982-1997). While in Le Pre St. Gervais, he continued to paint city life, cafes and landscapes of Europe, including painting throughout Italy (1984-1986). While in France he was involved in exhibitions in Paris and Boston, including solo exhibitions at the French Library in Boston (now the French Culture Center) and the Copley Society of Boston. He participated in group shows in Paris, including shows at the Grand Palais, a juried competition at the Cirque d’Hiver called Les Trophees de la Couleur, and a juried salon exhibition in the 10th district city hall of Paris. While in Paris, from 1995-97, he commuted back to Boston for a commission to paint a series of historical paintings for the Boston historical landmark and America’s oldest continuously operating restaurant, The Union Oyster House. The series was about the life of the Boston Revolutionary War publisher, Isaiah Thomas, and Daniel Webster, as well as some images of early Boston history, which are on view in their Heritage room and along their sidewalk windows.
Since returning to the states, Roth participated in group shows in the Allan Stone and DFN galleries in New York, had solo exhibitions at the American Institute of Architects in Boston and the Whistler House Museum in Lowell, Massachusetts and was a finalist in the Blanche E. Coleman Award Competition. The Boston Public Library recently acquired several of his drawings and watercolors for its print and paper collections.
Coastal themes –
Having been raised since birth a walking distance from the snow white beaches of Fort Walton Beach, Florida on the coast of the Golf of Mexico, coastal scenes have been a strong focus of Roth’s repertoire. Even while living in France and since returning to the states he made numerous trips to Cape Cod and Maine to paint. Some of these examples are represented here.
Judicial portraits –
From 2006 through the present, the federal and state courts in Massachusetts commissioned judicial portraits including a portrait of judge Richard G. Stearns which is hanging in Boston’s federal courthouse.
From 2007-2010 he was awarded a commission to paint the portraits of all 34 judges (past and present) of the United States federal court of the district of Puerto Rico.
Boston University, BFA, Painting.
Studied under: David Aronson (pre-college private mentor then professor at Boston University), John Wilson, Arthur Polonsky, David Ratner, Iso Papo, Morton Sacks, Joseph Ablow
Rhode Island School of Design, Pre-college studies program.
Studied design under: Richard Merkin and architecture under author, David Mccoulay
Awards and recognition
2012-15 St. Botolph Club, Boston – Fellowship, Fellow
2006 Blanche E. Coleman Award Competition, finalist
1993 Lefranc & Bourgois, Winsor Newton, Les Trophees de la Couleur, France
1975-76 Ford Foundation, Educational Grant, Boston University, Boston, MA
1975 Gold Medal, M. Grumbacher Artist’s Material Award, New York National Scholastic Awards, New York, NY
1974-75 Boston Globe Scholastics Art Competition, various awards