David Whitaker was born in Blackpool in 1939. He studied painting at the Royal Academy Schools, London, where he was awarded a Distinction. From the late 1960s he began working as an 'Op Artist'. While Bridget Riley was exploring the optical effects of line in her black-and-white works, Whitaker started to investigate the optical effects of colour in paintings of extraordinary daring and technical accomplishment. It was an investigation that he continued to pursue, and to dazzling effect, throughout his life.
In 1970 he was one of the first British artists to have a solo exhibition at the newly-established Serpentine Gallery, London. In 1973 he received the Mark Rothko Memorial Award (on Bridget Riley's recommendation) and spent a year working in New York. He has exhibited regularly at the Royal Academy and the Royal Watercolour Society (of which he is a Fellow). In 1996 Whitaker became the first abstract painter to win a prize at the Hunting Art Prizes, and achieved the same distinction at the Singer Friedlander national watercolour competition in 2000.
During a painting career that spanned five decades, Whitaker had over thirty one-man exhibitions in the UK, France, Germany and the USA. His work is in the numerous public and institutional collections including the Arts Council of Great Britain, York City Art Gallery, and the National Gallery of Iceland.
Since his death in 2007, there have been important survey shows of his work at the Grundy Art Gallery, Blackpool, and at the Kingston Museum, Kingston. A monograph on his work was published in 2012.