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Esther Gwendolyn (Stella) Bowen (1893–1947)

Stella Bowen, self-portrait, 1928

Stella Bowen, self-portrait, 1928

Australian War Memorial

News has been received in Adelaide of the death in London on October 30 of Miss Stella Bowen, an Australian official war artist. A South Australian, Miss Bowen was commissioned by the War Memorial Board to paint, as an official war artist, several portraits of RAAF air crews.

Stella Bowen, whose work was straightforward, honest and original, was particularly successful as a portrait painter. Among the many notable people whose portraits she painted are Dorothy Thompson, Edith Sitwell, the Sidney Webbs, Clifford Bax, Carl van Doren and Naomi Mitchison. Some of her portrait work took the form of "conversation pieces," and sometimes consisted of a group of heads formally arranged with a decorative or symbolic border. It was this method she used for several RAAF air crew portraits.

Born in Adelaide 54 years ago, Stella Bowen was the daughter of the late Mr. and Mrs. T. H. Bowen, of North Adelaide, and sister of Mr. T. C. Bowen, of Glenunga. She was educated at Tormore House and afterwards studied painting under Miss Rose McPherson (Margaret Preston). In 1914 she went to London, where she studied at the Westminster School of Art under Walter Sickert. She lived in France for about 15 years and exhibited there very successfully.

Just before her death Stella Bowen completed another commission for the Australian Government—a picture of Their Majesties the King and Queen at the saluting base at the Victory Parade. This and other of her fine descriptive pictures and her portraits are in Australia, and will be exhibited shortly in the capital cities. One of her pictures, "Embankment Gardens," was purchased by the National Gallery a few years ago. In 1941 Miss Bowen wrote an autobiography "Drawn From Life."

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'Bowen, Esther Gwendolyn (Stella) (1893–1947)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 21 July 2024.

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