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Exhibition od Oils & Watercolours

Private View Saturday 12th September 2009 noon - 5.00pm
Wine served - All Works for Sale
Exibition Finishes 11th October 2009

Where enquiries of prices are made on the gallery, the work is subject to availability and the price to change.

William Bowyer "Windbreaks" oil 28 x 48 cms



Visitors to Royal Academy summer exhibitions in recent decades will be familiar with William Bowyer’s searching, evocative and honest oil paintings of his familiar surroundings, often of the Thames near his Chiswick home or of the Blyth estuary in Suffolk, a favourite haunt. Watercolours, often fortified with gouache, have been a constant feature of his painting career; a fine exhibition of these works was mounted at the RA in 2008.

Born in Leek, Staffordshire, in 1926, William Bowyer was encouraged by his parents to follow his choice of career. Neither were artists; by the time William was at school his father was a union official, while his mother and elder sister were building up a successful millinery business. After receiving much encouragement from his school art teacher he entered Burslem Art School in 1943, having been awarded a scholarship.

Call-up for military service came in 1944; his preference was for the Royal Navy but thanks to the newly introduced ‘last digit lottery’ with enlistment numbers his fate was sealed: he became a ‘Bevin Boy’ working in the local colliery. Despite having to rise at 4 am for his early shift he somehow found the stamina to attend evening classes at the art school, accumulating enough work to make a successful application for entry to the Royal College of Art when peace returned. During his four years there his principal influences were Carel Weight and Ruskin Spear, his friendship with the latter fuelled later by the visual allure of Hammersmith’s street life and pubs. Other painting subjects at this time included the colourful street markets nearby, and particularly close links were formed with Bertram Mills’ circus which provided a visual stimulus recalling, perhaps, that of gypsies for Augustus John.

In 1951 three life-enhancing events occurred; he married Vera Small, took up residence in Chiswick and embarked on a thirty-year career teaching in art schools. Initially his teaching was at Gravesend where his star student was Peter Blake, later to become a friend and fellow Royal Academician. Full membership of the RA came in 1978, celebrated with a decision to retire from teaching to focus fully on painting. Ten years previously he had been appointed Honorary Secretary of the New English Art Club, a post he held for thirty years. He is also an elected member of the Royal Watercolour Society and the Royal Society of Portrait Painters.

Portraiture has been a regular feature of William Bowyer’s painting career. There have been many official portraits but perhaps the most publicised was his very topical study of Arthur Scargill in 1988. Cricketers have featured prominently in this side of his career; the game has been a lifelong passion and Ian Botham, Mike Gatting and Bob Willis have all been the subject of cricket paintings.

From the 1970s travel to distant destinations has generated a substantial body of work, but the architecture and gardens of his immediate neighbourhood have never lost their appeal. His links with the Suffolk coastal village of Walberswick can be traced back to 1959, when camping and painting holidays commenced. Tents soon gave way to a caravan, and in 1993 the Bowyers were able to acquire a house, with purpose-built garden studio, in the village.

This exhibition celebrates the long and continuing career of one of Britain’s most industrious and respected, yet least fashion-conscious, figurative artists.

Richard Scott 2009


William Bowyer "The Top Field, Walberswick" watercolour 51 x 73 cms



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