(1926 - 2015)
William Bowyer was active/lived in England. William Bowyer is known for abstract landscape and waterscape painting, portraiture, teaching.
Biography from the Archives of askART
Following is the obituary of William Bowyer by Christopher Masters, The Guardian, London, Web, 19 March 2015.
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William Bowyer, who has died aged 88, represented a tradition in British painting that extended back to the late 19th century. As honorary secretary of the New English Art Club for three decades, he was a fitting successor to luminaries such as Philip Wilson Steer, John Singer Sargent and Stanhope Forbes. His art was essentially conservative, but his bright hues and lucid compositions gave his landscapes – above all the Suffolk coast and the riverside at Chiswick in west London – a post-impressionist brilliance. He was also a distinguished member of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters, his subjects ranging from the Queen to the mineworkers’ leader Arthur Scargill.
The association with Scargill was quite natural, since Bowyer had worked in a colliery in Stoke-on-Trent as a Bevin boy during the second world war. Even at this early stage he was an artist, combining his day job underground with the creation of watercolours and life drawings in evening classes at Burslem School of Art.
Son of Arthur and Emma, Bill Bowyer was born in Leek, Staffordshire, into a family whose main income came from the hat shop run by his mother. She was helped by his sister Elaine, 14 years his senior. Bowyer’s work in the pits was succeeded, from 1945, by training at the Royal College of Art in London. Many of his fellow students had recently been demobilised and were typically five or six years older than him, and perhaps his most important friendships were with his tutors, Ruskin Spear and Carel Weight. He soon began to make a living from education, and taught the future pop artist Peter Blake at Gravesend Technical College and School of Art until 1951. In the same year, Bowyer married Vera Small.
He settled into a rhythm in which teaching and the practice of painting gently complemented each other. His art rapidly developed vitality and charm, then he maintained a consistent style for decades, notwithstanding the occasional accusation by unfriendly critics that he worked to a formula. He remained true to his luminous brand of naturalism to the end.
After Bowyer became a Royal Academician in 1981, he left his teaching post as head of fine art at Maidstone College of Art, Kent, and began to paint full-time. Averse to publicity, he went without a solo show, until, in 2003, he appeared at Messum’s Gallery in Cork Street, London. By then he was 77 and willing to admit that it was time to come “out of the woodwork”, although he had managed quite nicely up to then, through group exhibitions, private sales and commissions from august bodies such as MCC.
A stroke six years earlier may have added to Bowyer’s sense of urgency, although equally important was the encouragement of Ian Collins, the author of Water Marks: Art in East Anglia (2010). Collins had met Bowyer in Southwold and, marvelling at his reserves of unsold pictures, described him aptly as “a splendidly silent painter who wants simply to paint”.
In 1993, the Bowyers had bought a cottage in Walberswick, a coastal village near Southwold, depicted in the impressionist paintings of Steer a century earlier. Here Bowyer indulged his passion for fishing, oysters and cricket, on one occasion taking eight wickets for no runs with Clement Freud as his wicketkeeper. Even more importantly, the Suffolk seaside joined the Thames at Chiswick, his other home, as a major source of inspiration.
Despite the element of repetition, few artists have represented water and its environs more vividly or rigorously. Bowyer’s combination of chromatic intensity and taut, linear designs, often with a diagonal emphasis, has an almost crystalline quality.
Bowyer’s success with portraiture – his pictures of Scargill and the cricketer Viv Richards were acquired in 1988 by the National Portrait Gallery – was due in part to his sense of composition and colour. However, his strength also derived from his undeniable engagement with his sitters. Working from photographs as well as from life, he conveyed a variety of personas, and was particularly adept at painting children, whether for private patrons or for more personal reasons – in the case of his granddaughter, so that she could “remember me once I’m gone”.
He is survived by Vera, his daughter, Emma, and his sons, Jason and Francis, both of whom are artists.
• Arthur William Bowyer, landscape and portrait painter, born 25 May 1926; died 1 March 2015
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