Born in London in 1931, Dennis Creffield displayed a precocious artistic talent from a young age, earning him a place at the Borough Polytechnic at the age of just sixteen where he studied from 1947-51 under David Bomberg. It was here that Creffield was brought into the fold of a group of young students, many of whom would go on to redefine what it meant to be a British Modernist over the subsequent decades. Creffield was made an official member of the Borough Group in 1949 and alongside contemporaries including Marr, Mead, Holden and Mann began to explore his own idiosyncratic style. From 1957-1961, Creffield studied at the Slade School of Fine Art, winning the Tonks Prize for life drawing and the Steer Medal for landscape painting. From 1964-1968 he was a Gregory Fellow in Painting at the University of Leeds and in 1977 he was awarded the Arts Council Major Award for Painting.
During his years at Borough Creffield developed a particular proclivity towards both painting and drawing, exploring manifold subjects. Creffield’s affinity to the English landscape is evident in his extensive production of large scale studies and panoramas, depicting subjects ranging from the urban centres of London and Leeds to the cathedral towns of Canterbury and Exeter. What separates Creffield’s works from those of his peers is his ability to investigate, through his technical facility, the character and mysticism of a bygone age. This was arguably most fully realised in his series of charcoals depicting Medieval English cathedrals, an undertaking commissioned by the Arts Council in 1987 to record the churches and cathedrals that characterise the British landscape. These works reveal Creffield’s ability to illustrate both the visible and intuitive aspects of his subject through spontaneous and energetic handling of the medium. The resulting exhibition, English Cathedrals, opened in Winchester in 1988 and toured the country ending in London at the Camden Arts Centre in 1990. Creffield’s output is by no means restricted solely to landscape painting but also included still life and portraiture. His portraits once again looked back to a historical past including studies of works by Vermeer and Lange or his own self-portraits dressed as Lord Nelson. These imaginative visions combined with his technical and stylistic facility are summed by R.B. Kitaj who described Creffield as ‘one of England's most closely guarded secrets'.