Period: Inner worlds

Self-portrait Self-portrait
painted in Paris, c. 1928
oil on plywood 45 x 36.8 cm
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide
gift of Suzanne Brookman (the artist’s niece), 1999
99IP3

Stella Bowen saw Ford Madox Ford and his friends as “giants”, beside whom she was the “wife-and-mother, who did a little painting on the side”. After her break-up with Ford, she found her own distinctive voice and gained more assurance and independence as an artist, partly out of the necessity of having to support herself and Julia. The determination and self-awareness evident in her self-portrait reveals the strength she needed to realize her ambitions:

Ford never understood why I found it so difficult to paint whilst I was with him. He thought I lacked the will to do it at all costs. That was true, but he did not realise that if I had had the will to do it at all costs, my life would have been oriented quite differently. I should not have been available to nurse him through the daily strain of his own work; to walk and talk with him whenever he wanted, and to stand between him and circumstances. Pursuing an art is not just a matter of finding the time – it is a matter of having a free spirit to bring to it.