Sir Lawrence Gowing CBE RA (1918-1991) | A Painter Of People & Places

Sir Lawrence Gowing CBE RA (1918-1991) | A Painter Of People & Places

Specialist, Amy Scanlon shares an insight into a collection of the work from the estate of Sir Lawrence Gowing in our upcoming 25 April Modern & Contemporary Art Sale. 

31 March 2023

I am delighted to present a collection of the work from the estate of Sir Lawrence Gowing. It is always a pleasure to visit an artist’s home studio; see where he lived and worked, speak to his family and get a sense of the man as well as the painter. The huge numbers of books displayed throughout the house was no surprise, as Gowing was not just known for his artwork, he was one of the most prolific and influential British art historians and teachers of the twentieth century.

Born in Hackney, he worked with the Euston Road School from 1937, and taught at Camberwell College alongside Victor Pasmore and William Coldstream. From 1948 he was made Professor of Fine Art at Newcastle School of Art, where he pioneered the combination of practice and history in art education. He later held posts heading Chelsea School of Art, the Fine Art department of the University of Leeds and the Slade School of Fine Art.

Lot 104 | Sir Lawrence Gowing RA (1918-1991) Portrait of a lady, half-length, in a purple coat and brown hat - £700-1,000

Gowing curated major exhibitions at the Tate and at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and was the author of numerous successful books, public writings and exhibition catalogues, including Vermeer (1952), Matisse (1979), Lucien Freud  (1982) and Paul Cezanne: the early years (1988). Not bad for a self-taught art historian!

Throughout this time, he continued to paint. His artwork from the 1940s onwards was collected by major museums and galleries, and he was commissioned to depict public figures including C V Wedgwood, Clement Attlee and Isaiah Berlin. In the 1960s, his reflections on the challenges of visual perception as a means of recording reality led him to experiments with abstraction (Lot 111).

Lot 111 | Sir Lawrence Gowing RA (1918-1991) Countryside - £500-700

With eight lots in our 25 April sale and a further selection to be sold in our May Paint. Print. Sculpt. auction, we can see a cross section of his lifelong career as a painter of people and places. His artistic skill and diversity of style are displayed in the variety selected. An early portrait of a seated woman (Lot 104) shows his links with the Euston Road group and contrasts with the soft tones of the later sensitive portrait of his friend and fellow artist Rodrigo Moynihan (Lot 110). A personal highlight is Lot 106, where the bold colours and striking gaze of ‘Miss J of Horsforth’ captured my attention from the racks in his former studio where she had been residing for many years.

Lot 106 | Sir Lawrence Gowing RA (1918-1991) 'Miss J of Horsforth', 1975 - £800-1,200

The collection would not be complete if we didn’t celebrate his landscape paintings too. From his schooldays, Gowing painted regularly out of doors, and we can see this in his Cezanne inspired landscapes worked en plein-air as well as an attractive view of Capitol Hill, Washington DC (Lot 109), painted when Gowing was Visiting Professor at the National Gallery of Art in 1986-7.

Lot 109 | Sir Lawrence Gowing RA (1918-1991) Capitol Hill, Washington DC, 1987 - £1,000-1,500

It has been fascinating learning about Sir Lawrence Gowing and I hope you enjoy viewing the works in our upcoming sales as much as I have enjoyed curating them.

Thank you to Laura Gowing for her assistance with this article.

To view more lots in the sale, click here

For further information about our upcoming 25 April Modern & Contemporary Art Sale, please contact Amy Scanlon | 




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