Biography

Birth date: 16 May 1893
Birth place: Australia: South Australia, Adelaide
Death date: 30 October 1947
Death place: United Kingdom: England, Greater London, London
Conflict: Second World War, 1939-1945
Unit: Royal Australian Air Force

Stella Bowen was born in Adelaide in 1893. She studied art briefly with Margaret Preston before leaving for England in 1914. There she enrolled at the Westminster School of Art and studied under Walter Sickert.

In 1919, she met the writer, Ford Madox Ford, and a year later their daughter Julie was born. From then on, Bowen found little time to paint, but enjoyed a bohemian lifestyle living amongst other artists, writers and musicians in England and France.

A visit to Italy in 1923 reawakened her urge to paint after viewing the fresco paintings of the early Italian primitives, Giotto and Piero della Francesca. This trip was to have a lasting effect on her painting, as she adopted the primitives' use of a narrow tonal scale, which virtually eliminated the effects of light and shade. In 1927, her relationship with Ford ended and she supported herself and Julie on a meagre allowance from her family and occasional portrait commissions.

Bowen was almost fifty when, in 1943, she was offered a commission as an Australian official war artist. She began her commission in February 1944 and, against her wishes, was required to wear an Australian Women's Army Service uniform to facilitate her access to military establishments.

Her main brief was to depict the activities of the Royal Australian Air Force stationed in England. In doing so, she was able to pursue her interest in group portraiture. Bowen was employed by the Memorial for 20 months, during which time she completed forty-nine works.

After the war, her efforts to return to Australia to exhibit her work were frustrated by her lack of funds, the rejection of her application for repatriation, and finally ill health. She died in England in 1947.

Rolls and Awards

Collection Items

Photograph

043898

CAPTAIN STELLA BOWEN, AUSTRALIAN WAR ARTIST SHOWING HER SKETCHES TO SOME OF HER MODELS. THEY ARE LEFT TO RIGHT: F/LT H.O. STENBORG, DFC (AUS 408710) OF MELBOURNE, VIC: F/O C.J. CHALLIS (AUS 418066) OF BENALLA, VIC: SQUADRON LEADER J. GOOD DFC (AUS 408806) OF WARRNAMBOOL, VIC: F/LT G.H. NICHOLSON,...

043898

081313

RAF Station Binbrook. Informal portrait of 404503 Flying Officer (FO) Francis Gordon Jackson, DFC, 460 Squadron, RAAF. FO Jackson and the other members of the crew posed in their spare time for Australian Official War Artist Stella Bowen who painted 'Bomber Crew'. Before this painting was completed...

081313

081314

RAF Station Binbrook. Informal portrait of 404467 Flying Officer (FO) Hector Ronald Harrison, 460 Squadron, RAAF, of Lismore, NSW. FO Harrison and the other members of the crew posed in their spare time for Australian Official War Artist Stella Bowen who painted 'Bomber Crew'. Before this painting...

081314

081315

RAF Station Binbrook. Informal portrait of 414807 Flying Officer (FO) Thomas Joseph Lynch, 460 Squadron, RAAF. FO Lynch and the other members of the crew posed in their spare time for Australian Official War Artist Stella Bowen who painted 'Bomber Crew'. Before this painting was completed, the...

081315

081316

RAF Station Binbrook. Informal portrait of Flying Officer (FO) Marmion Wilfred Carroll, DFC, 460 Squadron, RAAF, of Brighton, Vic. FO Carroll and the other members of the crew posed in their spare time for Australian Official War Artist Stella Bowen who painted 'Bomber Crew'. Before this painting...

081316

081317

RAF Station Binbrook. Informal portrait of 411227 Flying Officer Ronald Leslie Neal, 460 Squadron, RAAF, of Greenthorpe, NSW. FO Neal and the other members of the crew posed in their spare time for Australian Official War Artist Stella Bowen who painted 'Bomber Crew'. Before this painting was...

081317

081319

RAF Station Binbrook. Informal portrait of 1874746 Sergeant (Sgt) Douglas George Champkin, RAF serving with a bomber crew, 460 Squadron, RAAF. Sgt Champkin and the other members of the crew posed in their spare time for Australian Official War Artist Stella Bowen who painted 'Bomber Crew'. Before...

081319

130209

ENGLAND, LONDON. 1946-06-08. LIEUTENANT MAINWARING, AUSTRALIAN OFFICIAL WAR ARTIST, EXECUTING A PAINTING OF THE SALUTING BASE, PRIOR TO THE VICTORY PARADE MARCH PAST. IN THE BACKGROUND IS MISS STELLA BOWEN, WHO WAS ALSO COMMISSIONED TO PAINT THE VICTORY MARCH.

130209

UK1175

A RAAF crew of a Lancaster Bomber from No 460 Squadron RAAF. Left to right: 408034 Flying Officer (FO) M. W. Carroll DFC of Ferntree Gully, Vic; Sergeant D. G. Champkin, RAF; 414807 Pilot Officer T. J. Lynch of Toowoomba, Qld (back); 404507 Squadron Leader E. G. D. Jarman DFC (Captain) of Yeppoon,...

UK1175

UK2338

Captain Stella Bowen, Australian war artist, at work on a pencil sketch of 408749 Flying Officer John William McCarthy, Maffra, Vic of No. 466 (Halifax) Squadron RAAF, RAF Station Driffield.

UK2338

UK2341

Yorkshire, England. 1944-12-13. Captain Stella Bowen, Australian war artist, showing her sketches to some of her models from No. 466 (Halifax) Squadron RAAF, at RAF Station Driffield. Left to right: 408710 Flying Officer (FO) H. O. Stenborg, Melbourne, Vic; 418066 FO C. J. Challis, Benalla, Vic;...

UK2341

UK2342

Yorkshire, England. 1944-12-12. War artist Captain Stella Bowen at work on a portrait of Group Captain D. T. Forsyth DFC, Melbourne, Vic of No. 466 Squadron RAAF based at RAF Station Driffield.

UK2342

081320

RAF Station Binbrook. Informal portrait of 404507 Squadron Leader (Sqn Ldr) Eric George Delancey Jarman, DFC, No. 460 (Lancaster) Squadron, RAAF, pilot, of Yeppoon, QLD. Sqn Ldr Jarman and the other members of the crew posed in their spare time for Australian Official War Artist Stella Bowen who...

081320

Art

Victory March, London, 10 June 1946

Depicts a victory march, Royal Family; on dais l-r: Dowager Queen Mary, unidentified, King George VI, Queen Elizabeth (Queen consort), Her Royal Highness Princess Margaret, unidentified, tri-service Colour Party with Australian flag; saluting base.

ART26665

Flying Officer Hector Harrison, wireless navigator

Portrait of Flying Officer Hector Harrison, wireless (radio) operator, Bomber Command, wears C-type flying helmet and oxygen mask. This is a study for the painting'Bomber crew'. Before the Second World War, Hector Harrison was a butcher for five years in his hometown of Lismore, New South Wales. He...

ART26252

Sergeant D G Champkin, flight engineer

Portrait of Sergeant D G Champkin, flight engineer, Bomber Command, 460 Squadron RAAF, wearing C-type flying helmet and oxygen mask. This is a study for the painting 'Bomber crew'.

ART26253

Flying Officer Ronald Neal, mid-upper gunner

Portrait of Flying Officer Ronald Neal, mid-upper gunner, Bomber Command, wears a C-type flying helmet and oxygen mask. This is a study for the painting 'Bomber crew'. Ronald Neal worked as an engine driver before enlisting on 27 April 1941. At the age of nearly 31, he was one of the oldest crew...

ART26254

Flying Officer Francis Jackson, bomb aimer

Portrait of Flying Officer Francis Jackson DFC wears a C-type flying helmet and oxygen mask. The drawing is a study for the painting 'Bomber crew'. Born in Tamworth, New South Wales, Francis Gordon Jackson enlisted in 1940, aged 23. In 1943 he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his...

ART26256

Flying Officer Francis Jackson, bomb aimer

Portrait of Flying Officer Francis G Jackson, DFC, bomb aimer, 460 Squadron, Bomber Command, RAAF, wearing C-type flying helmet and oxygen mask.

ART26257

Pilot Officer Thomas Lynch, rear gunner

Portrait of Pilot Officer Thomas Joseph Lynch, rear gunner of 460 Squadron, wearing C-type flying helmet and oxygen mask. This is a study for the painting 'Bomber crew'. Pilot Officer Lynch, who was presumed to have perished with the rest of the crew, was eventually discovered in a German...

ART26258

Pilot Officer Hector Harrison, wireless operator

Portrait of Flying Officer Hector Harrison, wireless operator, 460 Squadron, Bomber Command, RAAF, wearing C-type flying helmet and oxygen mask. This drawing is a study for the painting 'Bomber crew'.

ART26260

Admiral Sir Ragnar Colvin

Admiral Sir Ragnar Colvin (1882-1954) was a long-serving British naval officer who headed the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) at the outbreak of the Second World War. After a long and illustrious career, Colvin was appointed Chief of Naval Staff to the Royal Australian Navy in 1937. Under his...

ART26262

Air Chief Marshal Sir Charles Burnett

Air Chief Marshal Sir Charles Stuart Burnett, KCB, CB, CBE, DSO, formerly Chief of Australian Air Staff, retired 1941

ART26263

Bomber crew

Bomber crew is a group portrait of a Lancaster bomber crew representing the young Australians involved in the air war over Europe during the Second World War. In her capacity as an official war artist, Stella Bowen was stationed with the Royal Air Force at Binbrook, Lincolnshire, where No. 460...

ART26265

Remains of a flying bomb

Remains of a German V-1 'doodlebug' flying bomb on the ground. These look somewhat like a destroyed human figure or metamorphosis of a figure. The new plants suggest regeneration, renewal and hope.

ART26267

Halifax crew, Driffield (J Venning, C J Challis, J McCarthy, J Nicholas, G Robinson, J Good and H O Stenborg)

The crew members of a Halifax stationed at Driffield; left to right top to bottom: Jack Venning DFC, rear gunner, Flying Officer Colin J Challis DFC, mid upper gunner, Flying Officer Jack McCarthy DFC, wireless (radio) operator, Flight Lieutenant J Nicholas (or Nicholson), flight engineer, Flying...

ART26268

At the Churchill Club, large and small worlds

Portrait of Flying Officer Maurice O'Sullivan, RAAF, with a large terrestrial globe, in a room overlooking part of an enclosed garden of the Churchill Club, London. The Churchill Club was established as a cultural centre for officers of the American Forces during the Second World War. It was...

ART26269

Kit issue at POW reception camp, Eastbourne

Kit issue at POW reception camp, Eastbourne.

ART26271

Repatriated prisoner of war is processed

Two central soldier figures, possibly a portrait of Alexander Paton. The soldier facing away from the viewer represents the soldier at war, while the hatless soldier facing the viewer, with arms folded, is about to be repatriated. In the background the artist focuses on six pairs of hands engaged...

ART26272

Brigadier George Langley

Portrait of Brigadier George Furner Langley, DSO Head of Australian Red Cross in Britain, May 1944 - February 1946.

ART26273

A Sunderland crew comes ashore at Pembroke Dock

Group portrait of the crew of Short Sunderland flying boat, 461 Squadron, RAAF at Pembroke Dock, Wales. Seen as crew come up the steps are: Fredrick (Derry) Syme (pilot), Ronald Warfield (navigator), Ron Tyson (gunner), Eric Genders (gunner) and Charlie Martin (third pilot), 'Spud' Murphy (wireless...

ART26275

The first letter home, Gowrie House, Eastbourne

Depicts a pencil drawing of an unidentified soldier writing letter back home, Gowrie House, Eastbourne.

ART26276

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Australian Red Cross Field Force, John Fleming

Portrait of John Gerald Fleming, Deputy Assistant Commissioner of the Australian Red Cross Field Force.

ART26280

Flying Officer Frederick Syme, Sunderland Captain

Portrait of Flying Officer Frederick Melton 'Derry' Syme, Sunderland captain, Bomber Command, 461 Squadron RAAF.

ART26281

Private C R Clegg

Portrait of WX1033 C R Clegg, 2nd Australian Imperial Force, 2/11 Australian Infantry Battalion.

ART26282

Private L McLeod

Portrait of NX7544, Private L McLeod, 2/1 Battalion, 2nd Australian Imperial Force.

ART26283

Company Quarter Master Sergeant Carl Short

Portrait of Carl Short, Company Quarter Master Sergeant, 2nd Australian Imperial Force, 2/11 Australian Infantry Battalion.

ART26284

Private M W Ellis

Portrait of VX30848 Private M W Ellis, repatriated prisoner of war, 2nd Australian Imperial Force.

ART26285

Private Stan McCloy

Portrait of NX2643 Private Stan McCloy, 2nd Australian Imperial Force.

ART26286

Lieutenant C R Pittaway

Portrait of VX5253 Lieutenant C R Pittaway, 2nd Australian Imperial Force.

ART26287

Padre W J T Oakley

Portrait of Padre W J T Oakley, chaplain, 2/11 Australian Infantry Battalion.

ART26288

Lieutenant S R B Hardy

Portrait of QX6094 Lieutenant S R B Hardy, 2nd Australian Imperial Force.

ART26289

Lieutenant E Armstrong

Portrait of VX6205 Lieutenant E Armstrong, 2nd Australian Imperial Force.

ART26290

Captain J A McNulty

Portrait of Captain J A McNulty, 2nd Australian Imperial Force.

ART26291

Lieutenant A Lapin

Depicts a head and shoulders portrait of Lieutenant A Lapin. Stella Bowen artist's letter to Mr Duffy 23/11/45 noted that this was a "Sundry small portrait studies". On file this work is noted as "A POW drawn at Eastbourne" (see list on file 29/8/46).

ART26292

Lieutenant E Leonard Isherwood

Portrait of Lieutenant E Leonard Isherwood, 2nd Australian Imperial Force.

ART26293

Captain L L Gilbert

Portrait of Captain L L Gilbert, 2nd Australian Imperial Force.

ART26294

Lieutenant H Henderson

Portrait of Lieutenant H Henderson, 2nd Australian Imperial.

ART26295

Study for 'Bombing up a Lancaster'

Avro Lancaster bomber with full bomb load in open bomb bay.

ART29403

study for 'Bombing up a Lancaster'

Bombs stacked on several bomb trolleys ready for transport to aircraft.

ART29404

Study for 'Flight from reason'

Bombed houses, London; tree in left foreground.

ART29408

[Wartime landscape, England]

Depicts a study of a landscape of hills in the United Kingdom where Bowen spent the war years.

ART29413

[Study for 'Flight from reason']

Inner temple, Temple Church London, Second World War after bombing raid, showing bombed monuments to John Hiccocks and Samuel Mead.

ART29414

Hal Hattam

Depicts a portrait of Dr Howard (Hal) Hattam in uniform, painted while he was stationed at Gowrie House in Eastbourne, Sussex, to assist medically with the repatriation of Australian POWs. The artist, Stella Bowen, was here as an official war artist to represent the activities of the Australian...

ART93287

Reception desk at Gowrie House, Eastbourne

Upon arrival at the Australian prisoner of war repatriation centre at Eastbourne, the men were provided with a meal and accommodation. After settling in, they were allowed to send a free cable home and were presented with a Red Cross parcel. The men were presented with new uniforms and pay advances...

ART26270

D-Day, 0300 hours, interrogation hut, Warrant Officer George Lindenberg

Inside a Nissen hut an Australian pilot and British WAAF (Womens' Auxiliary Airforce) Flight Officer are seated at a table with cigarettes and biscuits, the man drinking a cup of tea. The pilot is Warrant Officer George Edward Maskell Lindenberg DFC, pilot 460 Squadron. In the background a bomber...

ART26266

Bombing up a Lancaster for Wing Commander Douglas

Loading bombs onto a Royal Air Force Avro Lancaster bomber for Bomber Command. Aircraft has protective cover over starboard wheel. Seen in the foreground are two loose bombs and a pair of universal bomb carriers. In the middle ground is a bomb trolley loaded with bombs. Single figure in battle...

ART26261

Squadron Leader Eric Jarman

Portrait of Squadron Leader Eric G D Jarman, DFC, Bomber Command, 'C' Flight, 460 Squadron, RAAF, wearing C-type flying helmet, flying goggles and oxygen mask. This is a study for the painting 'Bomber crew'.

ART26255

Flying Officer Marmion Carroll, navigator

Portrait of Flying Officer Marmion W Carroll, DFC, navigator, Bomber Command, 460 Squadron RAAF, wearing C-type flying helmet and oxygen mask.

ART26251

Group Captain Dudley Forsyth

Portrait of Group Captain Dudley Forsyth, DFC, in front profile.

ART26279

Pilot Officer Thomas Lynch, rear gunner

Portrait of Pilot Officer Thomas Joseph Lynch, rear gunner, 460 Squadron RAAF, wearing C-type flying helmet and oxygen mask. The drawing is a study for the painting 'Bomber crew'. Pilot Officer Lynch, who was presumed to have perished with the rest of the crew, was eventually discovered in a German...

ART26259

RAAF airmen at Mongewell Park Medical Rehabilitation Unit

Members of the Royal Australian Air Force at Mongewell Park Medical Rehabilitation Unit, Henley, England. They are in the garden participating in various sporting activities such as golf and archery. Figures include l-r: Flying Officer Harry Shipley, 3 unidentified, Ron McCleary, unidentified,...

ART26274

Group Captain Hughie Edwards

Portrait of Group Captain Hughie Idwal Edwards, VC, DSO, DFC, Bomber Command, 105 Squadron RAF.

ART26264

Pilot Officer Ronald Warfield

Portrait of Pilot Officer Ronald George Warfield, navigator, 461 Squadron RAAF.

ART26278

Private, Gowrie House

Portrait of an Australian infantry soldier (possibly Aboriginal), serving in the 2nd Australian Imperial Force. It was painted at Gowrie House in London.

ART26277

Flight from reason

Inner temple, Temple Church London, Second World War after bombing raid, showing bombed monuments to John Hiccocks and Samuel Mead.

ART91654

Manuscript

Syme, Frederick Melton (Flight Lieutenant, 461 Squadron, RAAF)

Manuscript titled "The Old Grey Widow Maker". Describes childhood, enlistment in RAAF and pilot training in Australia, Canada and England. Describes training with 461 Squadron in Sutherland Flying Boats, and operations including patrols in North Sea and attacking U-Boats. Also discusses oil...

MSS1385

Heks, Robin

MANUSCRIPT TITLED "OFFICIAL WOMEN WAR ARTISTS 1939-1945, AUSTRALIA", AND ACCOMPANYING PHOTOGRAPHIC ALBUM, INVESTIGATES THE ROLE OF THREE WOMEN ARTISTS IN AUSTRALIA IN W2: STELLA BOWEN, NORA HEYSEN AND SYBIL CRAIG. FINE ARTS HONOURS THESIS

MSS1330

Timeline

Date of birth 1893-05-16
Date of death 1947-10-30