A specialist in figurative sculpture, Nathan David was best known for his dancers, including an over-lifesize bronze sculpture of Margot Fonteyn. Nathan David was born in Deptford, south-east London, one of two sons of Herbert David, a master tailor and cutter, and his milliner wife, Ada (née Lazaroff). Though he grew up with this family in Wood Green, he was evacuated many times during the Second World War. During the disruptions to his schooling, he spent many hours drawing, and developed a love of the human body in movement.
In 1946, at the age of 16, David left Glendale Grammar School, and began to work in a commercial art studio, while taking evening and weekend classes at Hornsey School of Art. Ten years later, in 1956, he took up a job in graphic design in Montreal, before moving to New York to work at the advertising agency, J Walter Thompson. Returning to London in 1959, he joined Ogilvy Mather, and also worked on The Sunday Times Magazine on a freelance basis.
Between 1964 and 1976, he was married to the artist, Tamara Katz.
When an artist’s studio in Bushey, Hertfordshire, became available, David left graphic design to concentrate on sculpture. He studied at the City and Guilds School of Art, and supplemented his income by teaching graphic design at Watford School of Art and later sculpture at the Sir John Cass Faculty of Art (1975-90).
In 1980, David was made a Fellow of the Royal British Society of Sculptors. At that time, he was working on an over-lifesize bronze of Margot Fonteyn in the role of Ondine, which was erected in her birthplace at Reigate, Surrey. While Fonteyn sat for her face, a number of models posed for her body, including his second wife, Ann White, who married him in 1982. In that year, he also produced bronze fountains and terracotta gargoyles for a new walled garden designed by Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe at Sutton Place, Guildford. Other commissions included: Cendrillon, given to Diana, Princess of Wales (1989); Nereid for Cardiff city centre (1996); Mother and Child for Clare Hall, Cambridge (1997); stations of the cross for All Saints Church, East Sheen, south-west London (2001); and a lifesize bronze of the rugby player, Nick Duncombe, who died aged 21 in 2003 – it was installed the following year at the Stoop, the Twickenham home of Harlequins, Duncombe’s club.
David exhibited at the Royal Academy summer exhibition and at many other galleries in London and abroad. He also had solo shows at the Royal Opera House, Sadler’s Wells Theatre, the Royal Academy of Dance, Birmingham Hippodrome and The Orangery in Holland Park, west London.
Following a diagnosis of cancer in 2012, David continued to work, latterly producing abstract forms in terracotta. He died in 2017.
Further reading: Ann David, ‘Nathan David’, Guardian, 23 July 2017 [obituary]