David "Dave" Ross was born in Tiptree of an Irish mother and a Scottish and a French-Jewish father who was a horse dealer. Ross left school at the age of 14 ½. Despite his age he went to sea for 6 years, sailing on barges and small tankers all over the world, from France and Holland to India and Mozambique. After that period of exotic travel, he came back to Colchester where he enrolled at Colchester School of Art. Being much older than the other students, he served as an unpaid steward while studying there. While at the School, he was taught printmaking by John Nash, learnt the craft of painting and drawing from Philip Ardizzone, the son of the English illustrator and author, Edward Ardizzone (1900-1978) and well-known for Victorian style comic genre scenes, and Peter Coker (1926-2004) (q.v.), the realist painter. During that period Ross also met Cedric Morris (q.v.), “a good man” and “a gentleman”, who had an important influence on his artistic career. After three years in Colchester Ross went to London to study at the Camberwell School of Art where he was taught by Patrick Procktor RA (1936-2003) a friend and contemporary of David Hockney, who counted among his friends Francis Bacon and Lucien Freud. In 1972 Ross took up a teaching post at the School of Art and Craft in Kennington, now the City and Guilds of London Art School, but left after one term not feeling fitted for the job. He then returned to Colchester where he joined the family business, buying and restoring period houses. At the same time, in 1973, he opened a Tattoo shop in Colchester, working there in the evening. Tattooing has been and still is an important part of his life.
Ross started painting as a young child and has never stopped since, feeling that painting should be part of everybody’s life. He paints landscapes, portraits and chickens as well as life models but never sells for profit. Instead he gives the profit to charity, as is indirectly the case here with the portrait of Mr Freddy Chapman. The painting was acquired by Sir Bob Russell, then MP for Colchester, at an auction of paintings by the artist at the Reeman Dansie saleroom in aid of St Helena Hospice. It was then presented by Sir Bob Russell to CAS on 24th November 2012.
Freddy Chapman (b.1894), “The Shrimp Man”, was a well-known figure in Colchester in the late 1960’s, selling shell and wet fish from a barrow, to passers-by at the top of Scheregate Steps. He also sold shrimps from his barrow in Morant Road, Harsnett Road and King Stephen Road. It is believed he got his shrimps from Mersea or Brightlingsea, and carried them in a sack on the Eastern National Bus. He was born in Colchester and started selling oysters on Saturday mornings as a young boy. Later he set up his own business selling wet fish, but eventually specialised in the sale of shrimps. He traded for around 60 years, went through three barrows (green bodywork with red wheels) and stopped only when the supply of fresh shrimps dried out.
This painting is after a photograph from Patrick Denney’s book Images of England: Colchester.
DENNEY, Patrick, Images of England: Colchester, Tempus Publishing Ltd in 1998
ESSEX COUNTY STANDARD, 19th of August 2010, Freddy the Shrimp Man: a real Colchester character, Clare Jeffs