Daniel Whistler born 1954 is a painter, illustrator and film maker, who sees a unity in these things. If documentary film has been called the ‘creative treatment of actuality’ then rapt attention to real places, specific light conditions, and their transformation through art also defines the Impressionists, with whom he was long intoxicated.
He joined in, unofficially, at the Beaux Arts in Paris, in 1973, then studied Social Anthropology and practical Film Making, starting documentary in remote Greece. He subsequently directed for BBC, C4 and ITV, films about communities, ways of life and the philosophies of individuals, whom he gets to know slowly, visually aiming for atmosphere and a sense of place. ‘Jack: Echoes of a Life’, Central ITV,1982 portrayed an embattled blacksmith at the end of his life in Gt Tew, Oxfordshire. A four year, independently made film on pollution and culture in India, ‘The Battle of the Ganges’, 2002, was broadcast internationally, winning awards. He has increasingly done his own cinematography. He has made four films about artists, ‘In the Path of the Sun’ on the oil painter Theo Major for Granada ITV, 1996; ‘Freddy Gore: The Engaged Eye’, on the Frederick Gore RA painting in Provence, 2011; ‘Rex: Dreams Between Wars’ 2013, about the uncle he never knew, the muralist, designer and illustrator Rex Whistler, 2013, and ‘Turner’s Wessex’ on JMW Turner’s work in the region, 2015, the last two commissioned by Salisbury Museum. He brings a semi-improvised approach also to contemporary dramas, like ‘Thresholds’, 2009, working closely with actors.
His father Laurence Whistler taught him glass engraving and he has done commissioned pieces, goblets and decanters. He regularly storyboards for films and has been a commissioned illustrator for the Folio Society, The Riddle of the Sands’ by Erskine Childers with 41 line drawings and ‘A Time of Gifts’ by Patrick Leigh Fermor with 11 drawings, both books researched in detail across Germany and Austria rather as films would be. He had a joint show of paintings at Gallery 47, Gt Russell St, WC1 in 2009, ‘The Voice of Landscape’. He lectures in film at Bath Spa University.
He writes on the oil ‘Above Codford St Mary’, 2014-17:
Shooting the documentary about my uncle and his work, “Rex: Dreams Between Wars” for the Salisbury Museum exhibition ‘Rex Whistler: A Talent Cut Short’ in 2013 meant a journey of discovery across Britain looking at his murals in situ, and filming his illustrations, set designs and paintings. But I never got to the village of Codford St Mary until 2014. Rex had spent many months here in a Wiltshire he already knew, but now in his army tank training ahead of the Battle of Normandy, where he was to be killed in 1944. It was sultry, high pressure weather for days with the sun going down in the direction of our old family home in Lyme, West Dorset, over the hills.
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