We are proud to be able to show some of the work of venerable Royal Academician William Bowyer a Modern British Artist, who lived until the grand old age of 88 years and who was able to keep on painting almost to the end of his life, spending most days in his studio in Chiswick. He represented a tradition in British painting that extended back to the late 19th century, even to the extent of his studio, which was one of the renowned Gainsborough Studios. William’s family invited us to go and visit William’s erstwhile workplace last summer and we felt we were stepping back in time. The building is part of the historically important Norman Shaw-designed garden suburb development in the Bedford Park conservation area. Studios were built in the 1880s from bricks left over from the construction of Bedford Park. Painters and sculptors have lived in this part of Chiswick since Hogarth’s time and this artistic tradition still continues. Indeed, William claimed that his soul was in his studio.
Trained at the Royal College of Art in London from 1945, William painted in watercolours and oils, working from drawings and photographs, but he also had a very good memory, which he admitted, came in useful. His practice was to “Just start painting and then keep on going …. until something comes – and drink lots of tea and coffee”.
He was a distinguished member of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters where his subjects ranged from the Queen to Arthur Scargill, the mineworkers’ leader. He found portraiture quite easy, once being commissioned to paint the whole of the Royal Institute of Psychiatry over five or six years and he found that painting people was also a ‘rather nice way to make friends’.