Dring, William Dennis (1904-1990)

Dring, William Dennis (1904-1990)

British artist William Dennis Dring is best known for his portraiture, particularly the commissions he undertook for the War Artists' Advisory Committee in the 1940s. His characterful depictions possess a sense of vitality - as if the subjects are mid-discussion.

There’s movement, life and blurred edges. You get the feeling that he worked tirelessly to capture a spirit rather than simply a likeness alone.

Dring was born in Streatham, London and studied at the prestigious Slade School of Fine Art under portraitist and surgeon Henry Tonks (1862-1937). Just a few years earlier, Tonks had produced numerous works of soldiers with facial injuries following World War I. These are powerful and long-lasting in the memory. An example of how far a portrait can penetrate into the consciousness of the viewer. The young Dring was surely inspired and perhaps these evocative works sparked his imagination.

In 1939, he began working for the War Artists' Advisory Committee while also teaching at the Southampton School of Art. He produced some impressive portraits during this period - many of which feel casual, caught in the moment. An informal depiction of Commander William D. King, which is held at Royal Museums Greenwich, downplays the rank of the distinguished subject. It captures him in thought, a man silent and lost in his own imagination - his mind full of horrors, his hands resting in a heavy jacket. Behind him, the dials and technology of a whirring submarine.

Following the war, Dring continued to achieve numerous public commissions including for the Royal Family. His 1972 portrait of Charles III (when Prince of Wales) is a particularly good example.

William Dennis Dring was immersed in his art. He married the artist Grace Rothwell (1912-1991) and their daughter, Melissa, is also a portrait painter. He lived in Compton, near Winchester.

Today, 69 of Dring’s works are held in the collection at the Imperial War Museum. With a further 40 held at the National Maritime Museum.


Born in Streatham, London.


Studied at the Slade School of Fine Art under Henry Tonks.


Produced several portrait commissions for the War Artists' Advisory Committee.


Taught at the Southampton School of Art.


Produced portraits for the Air Ministry.


Elected a member of the Royal Academy.



Stay In Touch
Subscribe to our Wednesday newsletter for the latest finds and 10% off your order.