David Shepherd painted many types of animals, but he always held a soft spot in his heart for elephants—and also airplanes and steam engines. When he wrote his autobiography, he titled it The Man Who Loves Giants: An Artist Among Elephants and Engines. In the art world, his elephants are king, with top examples fetching high prices both in the United State and the United Kingdom. After his death in 2017, the New York Times relayed one of his early experiences with Africa. “I had one idea only when I was growing up in the 1930s: to go to Africa and be a game warden,” he said in a 2015 television interview. “I had never even been across the channel, so I had no qualifications whatsoever. So I hop into an airplane and fly out to Kenya in 1949 and knock on the door of the head game warden in Nairobi and say, ‘Can I be a game warden?’ And he said, ‘No, bugger off.’ And I came back to England with my world in ruins.” Sadly, he never became a game warden, but in 1960 Shepherd returned to Africa to paint elephants. It was the beginning of a long adventure with the giant animals.
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