William Bowyer

WILLIAM BOWYER R.A. (English 1926-2015) 'Heron House – Chiswick' and 'White Cross Hotel – Richmond'

Of topographical interest, lots 483 and 484 in the upcoming Fine Sale on 26th January, are two paintings by William Bowyer: a riverside scene as seen from the terrace of Heron House in Chiswick, with Fuller’s Brewery side prospect, and another Thames view with The White Cross Hotel in Richmond.

The first local landmark is the most westerly of the four villas built in the area around 1875. Heron House was first called “The Hollies”, and its walls have hosted several prominent personalities, including Sir John Isaac Barnaby from 1895, Thornycroft’s chief engineer, who wrote while residing there a history of the firm, '100 Years of Specialised Shipbuilding'. Neville Heaton, a senior civil servant, who led the team that put through the 1944 Butler Education Act, moved to Heron House in 1941, and after him, during the 1950s and 60s, Sir Gilbert Flemming, Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Education, lived there. Another interesting piece of local information is that the Fuller’s Brewery has been active on this site for 350 years and counting.

The second painting depicts one of Young’s pub, built on what was once a Franciscan friary, dissolved by will of King Henry VIII in 1534, of which some remains are incorporated in the present building. Initially called the Waterman’s Arms since 1780, it was later rebuild in 1838 and renamed with the present denomination in 1840, after his owner Samuel Cross.

A local himself, Bowyer painted different landscapes of the Chiswick and Richmond areas for about sixty years, making these two artworks perfectly fitting with his most recognisable production. His typical approach would be to begin painting en plein air, and later completing the compositions in studio, according to the after-Impressionist technique, and to choose vibrant hues and create balanced compositions, with a particular attention dedicated to the game played between water and light.

A prominent name in English Art of the second half of the 21st Century, William Bowyer covered for thirty years the role of honorary secretary of the New English Art Club, previously held by luminaries such as Philip Wilson Steer, John Singer Sargent and Stanhope Forbes. He did not became a full time painter until 1981, when he left his post as Head of Fine Art at Maidstone College of Art, Kent, and became a Royal Academician. Also member of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours and the Royal Society of Portrait Painters (his sitters ranging from the Queen to the mineworkers’ leader Arthur Scargill), his paintings appear in collections such as the Royal Academy of Arts, the Arts Council of Great Britain, Vancouver Art Gallery, Canada, Huffman and Boyle, New Jersey, the Museum at Lord's Cricket Ground, and The Prince of Wales Collection.

- Daniela Guardiani

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